Welcome to our Blog

Natives In Business News

Read our Blog

On the importance of being professional and acting like one on social media

Let me start by saying that much has been commented lately about this topic on social media due to the unusual rising of conflict, less charming manners, and an even lesser sense of professionalism amongst translators, proofreaders, interpreters, editors, reviewers and pretty much every other freelancing job there is. I will be focusing solely on translators, editors and proofreaders for obvious reasons, but believe me when I tell you that it will be more than enough.

Dissension and arguing are common amongst people on the Internet. While at their core both words are not negative per se, they may become depending on the emphasis that one gives to each. It’s not the first time that I disagree or argue with someone on the Internet while discussing work, the state of the union and tips and tricks with colleagues. However, there are some that take it to the next level – lying, slandering, insulting, ad hominem attacks, envy, lack of information slash lack of experience slash lack of meeting more colleagues in real life, God complexes… you name it. While one could argue that it’s the Internet’s fault because it’s a jungle out there, let’s stop for a second to think about it.

The Internet is not sentient or conscious, while people are, and that means that the Internet is not provided with a brain, unlike everyone that uses it (with some using their brain more than others, it goes without saying). In that case, and because everything that is not privileged enough to have a brain cannot think, it’s more than fair to say that the ones that use the Internet are in fact the ones to blame when things go south. And south things go more than they should.

If it’s not because of the eternal debate about rates, then it’s about something else that in no way elevates our trade. The question, though predictable, is simple – what do people expect to attain when they act unprofessionally to say the least? Social media is indeed a very large zoo with an exotic and very wide range of fauna – trolls, holier than thous, maniacs, rude and ill-mannered people and everything else you might imagine. I have several theories to explain poor-taste behaviour, from the lack of a sturdy home-education to poor, real life social skills, but none as logical as lack of impunity. You see, when said people enter the Internet jungle, they behave like the fiercest animals to be noticed. Then, because it is very hard to cage most animals, they wander and roam free, always waiting to pounce onto the next victim.

I have had my share of encounters with some of them. In fact, I was even told to (quote) go f**k myself by someone who thinks she is at the top of our profession, something that is very far from true but to which most other colleagues nod affirmatively and say “Yes, yes”. Let’s face it – would you argue with a looney? Neither would I, so I smile condescendingly and go on with my life. However, said “professional” is in fact esteemed by plenty of colleagues, as the person indeed is talented and… well, professional, this time without quotation marks. Why is it then that someone who is recognized or seen as a professional acts like an amateur in front of everyone and even gets praised for doing so? Herd mentality could very well explain it, but in the end we’ll never know, as it is not logical nor civilized to begin with.

That being said, why should we be polite to others when they are inches away from ripping our heads and skewer them on a stake? Well, the only answer I have to that is “Because we are professionals and we act like it.” Not to mention that if you’ve had a proper home education you will certainly refrain from stepping down to someone else’s level, of course. Sticks and stones, sticks and stones. There is, however, another reason, which I think is the most important of them all – how will you look professional in the eyes of a real colleague (that is, someone who does not abide by mob mentality and who doesn’t follow trends or bandwagons) when you act poorly? No need to answer, we all know what you are going to say.

Our image is not only about how good we are at what we do, but also about how we act before our peers and clients. There are perks to it, to be honest, and I am sure that you have more to gain than to lose by starting to act like the professional that you are. After talking with colleagues like Marta Stelmaszak, Lloyd Bingham and Andrew Morris about the no-wins of acting unprofessionally online, I decided to write down the 5 most important reasons that I reckon that are necessary for a professional to be at his prime. The others? Well, no matter how hard they try, professionals in full they will never be, and that’s that.

 

CAVE CAVE DEUS VIDET
(Be careful, for God is watching)

eye

Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things sums up the first point perfectly – be careful with what you say online, for God sees. And I don’t mean the biblical God, but clients. Take Facebook, for instance – there are thousands of pages about the world of translation and interpretation, and I am sure that even the most amenable one has had trouble with some of its users. Take the page Standing Out; to my knowledge, it’s the most balanced page in terms of manners, and even so the page and its users have been greeted with sourness in the past by previous users.

Let’s be honest – SO users (and I am one) do discuss all the time about what goes on in the trade, we tip each other to the best of our knowledge and we happen to gather in the same place without ranting, be it online or in real life, without being nasty to each other and always with a good dose of not too balanced humour. Because other groups can’t even dream of how good those users get along without needing to chop each other’s heads, they prefer to call it a cult, a placebo, etc. Not a problem, we ignore it as the adults that we are. We welcome everyone that wants to grow professionally while having fun, but no one’s obliged to enter. We also do not rule with an iron fist and act like we’re heaven sent mana.  

On the opposite end you have pages that travel great lengths to create sourness and that rely heavily on bad manners; take The League of Extraordinary Translators, for one, where besides the regular bashing of other pages/groups/people, its users sometimes turn against each other as well. Maybe that’s because the group’s administrators are the ones that promote most of the discordance and antagonism to start with, indirectly and directly driving users to follow their steps. Or even Things Translators Never Say, a group that exists so translators can let some steam out after a hard day’s work.

I do love (and have the need) to blow off steam. For that, I sometimes play videogames. I do read as well, and exercise at the gym whenever I can. I even cook and sometimes throw darts at a Nigel Farage poster that I have in my office. Not at the same time, as you might have guessed. However, this page has become a cesspool where its users charge against each other and where clients are treated like sewage. In the beginning, TTNS WAS fun, but lately things got so out of proportion that I wonder why people go so low. Because I see new translators starting up their businesses almost every day, here are my three questions: have you ever heard of top-notch, exquisite customer service? Even if you haven’t, is this what you want to be remembered for in the eyes of newcomers? Is this the legacy you want to leave to the ones that one day will succeed you?

So, in my view, you have a page that is interested in creating a community of translators who know that, no matter what, there will never be rudeness involved (Standing Out), a page where disagreements, arguments and rudeness are the chef’s special (The League of Extraordinary Translators) and finally a page where translators wander in circles talking rubbish that will not only not help them as it proves to be pointless after a while, turning them into worse businesspeople. Even its name (Things Translators Never Say) makes you think – if it’s not to be said, why do people insist on saying the things they do? How do I know this? I once was a member of all three groups, and opted to remain a member of Standing Out only after a while.

Now let’s pretend you are a client looking for a professional and you are told that translator X might fit the glove. All of a sudden, you see him blabbering, being rude or talking nonsense about translators on a Facebook page. All things considered, will you still contact him/her in order to do the job?

Oh, but clients don’t view those pages, you know?” – You might say. All I can answer to you is “Oh really?!” Most people have no idea of the amount of former freelance translators that suddenly opened a boutique/premium agency and that often go to pages like the above mentioned three looking for professionals. After all, they were translators once, it only makes sense that they know where to look. So, your idea of getting more work and even being eligible for a long lasting relationship with a premium agency or client is to be rude, disrespectful and ill-mannered towards others for whatever reasons in the same places where clients may be hanging? Call it what you want – in the end, it’s nothing less than burning bridges. People talk. Clients outside the industry may ask for a recommendation of other translators, and guess who will never be recommended?

 

WHAT YOU SAY REFLECTS WHO YOU ARE

mirror

I’m honestly not the happy-go-lucky type of person. I mean, it’s not that I am a pessimist, but I like to have my feet firmly set on the ground while my mind wanders and travels. On the other hand, I do try to find positivity in everything around me. If something turns out to be a bad surprise, then at least it will be a good lesson. Such a thing happened recently enough after I joined a professional translators’ association, IAPTI. I decided to make the investment as I had heard good things about the association and also because I recognize the positive and legitimate contributions of people like Aurora Humarán or Attila Piróth to our trade, amongst others. Moreover, luminaires like Noam Chomsky are honorary members of the association, so I tried it without thinking twice.

However, I was shocked to discover that the person in charge for IAPTI’s ethics committee (something in the likes, pardon me if it’s some other title) periodically fomented plain, simple rudeness with posts like “Is it me or translator xyz is full of crap?” Promoting attacks against whoever it maybe, especially on social media, is as low as it gets. Politicians themselves don’t do it, so why should someone in charge of an ethics committee (or whatever its name may be) be foolish enough to? I took the time to read IAPTI’s Code of Ethics and what I found left me speechless: as far as I could gather, the person in charge for the Ethics Committee broke the Code that she should have been enforcing instead of denigrating, namely points 1.3, 2.4, 2.5, 3.2, 3.3, 3.8, 4.1, 4.3 and 4.4. I wish I could say “Oh, the irony”, but there’s nothing particularly funny about this to begin with.

Needless to say, I contacted Aurora Humarán regarding this issue and she obviously told me something in the lines of everyone having the right to their opinion and that what each person thinks is not directly related with IAPTI. Fair enough. She was kind enough to invite me to have a chat with her over Skype to discuss this matter, and I even added her, but in the meantime (due to professional and academic commitments) I took a rain check on the offer until I forgot about it.

It goes without saying that I did not renew my IAPTI membership in 2016 exactly because I do not feel well in a place where someone in charge of the ethics committee promotes digress, controversy and bad personal manners when said person should be doing the exact opposite. I don’t see ITI or CiOL colleagues acting poorly, so why should I not give those institutions a try instead? All this to say that what you say online not only gets noticed by clients but by peers as well. So what would you think of joining a vegan group that more often than not goes to McDonalds? Exactly. We should practise what we preach, and if we don’t we can bid farewell to our credibility.

 

LOW PAYING CLIENTS AND AGENCIES ARE THE DEVIL

satan

Of course they are. And all Muslims are terrorists, all men are sexist pigs and all politicians are dishonest. Why not take it to the next level and create an Inquisition Cabinet strictly for direct clients and agencies? What usually happens is that rude people usually talk too much and listen too little, are full of certainties and do not allow the other side to speak their piece. They are so certain that a client or an agency is the devil that the first thing they do is to create vitriol (and here we can go back to the same herd mentality I’ve referred above). Only (sit down, please)… they aren’t.

Clients and agencies are an essential part of the negotiation process of our business. Without them, you and I have no work. I also know that there are plenty of bad clients and agencies around, from bottom feeders to non-payers, but then again, are we talking about the majority of clients and agencies? Should we just make up our mind and take things for granted when in fact there’s more to it than that?

In this matter, let’s look at Things Translators Never Say, for one. All you see from the time you log in to the time you log out is people going around in circles, crying “WOLF!” out loud so the entire village hears it and, tomorrow, it will happen all over again. And the day after tomorrow. And the day after that. Until you come to a point that you ask yourself “Is this all there is to it, talk rubbish about clients and agencies and bad rates?” Think: what will that achieve? Are you on social media to try to develop your business or to rant about how bad agency 1 or client 2 is? Is this what you call being a professional? Because it’s everything but.

Then it gets more serious when there are those who even publish confidential information on pages like this thinking they are being smart when in fact they just are making a fool of themselves, not to mention that this practice is obviously illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. Does NDA ring a bell, anyone?! But what is more alarming is the fact that said people are unfair, unjust and also liars, all this because they think they’re somehow on a higher plane of existence and that clients and agencies are ignorant peasants straight from the middle-ages. I won’t comment the absurdity of it all, I’ll just say that a translator like this not only is unprofessional as word gets around real fast about this sort of prima donnas, especially amongst agencies.

Again: it’s OK to say no to delirious propositions from agencies and clients that try to take advantage of us. However, saying no isn’t the same as acting like you’re fighting the devil or being delusional enough to think that without you the world would not be the same. Because it would. And this last part takes us right into the next point.

 

LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

your_egoI’m sure you’ve already heard about certain translators for their notorious behaviour. In their minds, our trade would be far less good without them. They are the ones that insist on stomping other translators because said translators have different opinions and opt to have a different approach to their businesses. They’re the same ones that can’t go a day without saying how much they plan to earn next quarter. And they are happy in their little world, because they think this is what makes them successful and professional, earning plenty of money and having a formed opinion about everything.

Then, said translators are cast aside in real life (let’s say at translator events) by their peers, exactly because they have no real life social skills to begin with. Unless you think that being rude will gather you graces (and in that case you are very wrong), what is your excuse? Some do it because it’s the only way they have to be noticed, while others because they in fact think that they are very special snowflakes that only fall from the sky in the most remote mountain regions of Japan. In August. When the moon covers the sun at exactly 1.53 PM.

It goes without saying that there are good and bad translators, but that doesn’t give one the right to act rudely on those that are bad. Will it make you a better translator? Will your workload increase? Then why do it? There is no answer to this, except that some people’s egos are so big that said people don’t even realize how ridiculous they appear to be to others.

We certainly should go against the grain and say that something is not right when we know what we’re talking about, but even that requires manners. That’s what differentiates us from apes. Hence, and unless you plan to be eating bananas for a long time, my suggestion is act like the unique individual that you are – not less than anyone else, but certainly not more than anyone else either. While some may say that this involves personality, and we all know each person has its own, why should it clash with professionalism? You can have a rather unique or difficult personality, but can afford to be a lousy professional by being rude?

 

 

IGNORE ARGUMENTS AND MIND YOUR OWN… WELL, YOUR BUSINESS, LITERALLY

matlab-optional-arguments

The internet is a pitfall that relies on the lack of paralanguage – intonation, volume, sarcasm, scorn… most of the times you might not understand at first what people have said, and this can lead to attrition. I am very sure that if you’re an ongoing Internet surfer you’ve experienced this at least once, so you know where I’m going.

However, other times you know all too well what people mean. Less than a month ago I was discussing with another colleague about rates and premium agencies paying at least 12 or 14 euro cents per word, and a third colleague posted a picture that said that 15 euros cents per word is a chimera, something unachievable. I replied that there’s so much more than meets the eye and that 15 euro cents per word is ridiculously low when top established colleagues sometimes charge more than 1 euro per word.

Another translator started asking me for names of said premium agencies, scorning and doubting, and most certainly filled with envy (I honestly believed that envy was a product of an old wives’ tales, but I was wrong). I let her have the last word and replied no more, exactly because I do like to discuss things, but I like more to invest my time with like-minded and open-minded people. Little does the person know that I do invest thousands of euros yearly traveling and meeting and networking with colleagues, and that things develop naturally from that point on. As a matter of fact, I do know a couple of dozen premium agencies worldwide, most of which contacted me as I was referred to them by colleagues or asked me if I knew someone specialised in a specific area out of my bounds.

I do sometimes put them in touch with premium agencies when I realise they are legit and that my references won’t backfire. Now why would I do that to someone I’ve never worked with, or to someone that interrupts a discussion only to throw acid and vitriol at me? In short, arguments gets you blacklisted, which is not a very savvy way of conducting a business. But lo and behold, this is the Internet, that place where some people tend to mistake liberty with libertine.

Because of all of the above, I asked my colleague Lloyd Bingham if he would mind me using small excerpts of one of his articles on this matter as I can’t obviously top a native English speaker, but more importantly because his tips sum up everything a professional should do in order to mind what really matters. They are as follows:

  • Clients who won’t pay our rate or offer low rates are an opportunity for education. We should not waste it with patronising, smart alec answers. If they won’t listen, don’t work for them;
  • Criticism of our methods or ideas offer us a chance to challenge ourselves and promote healthy debate with our industry.

Not one of these issues has ever been solved with the anger, frustration and hostility that they are often been treated with. This leads to us becoming more closed-minded, distrustful, desperate, less ambitious and, ultimately, worse business people. Some principles that should guide us when confronted with someone or something we don’t agree with are:

  • Assume good faith if faced with an undesirable scenario. Assume misguided views rather than malice. You will always be the bigger person;
  • Don’t take things personally. There’s no ‘I’ in translation community… there are two. The industry is bigger than a single person;
  • Don’t go in with all guns blazing. If there’s something that a client or colleague has done that still makes your blood boil, write an angry message… and then delete it;
  • Attack the argument, never the individual. Personal attacks are the epitome of unprofessionalism and any reasonable arguments immediately lose all validity once the sleeves are rolled up;
  • What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What goes on between our clients – potential or long-standing – is between us as individuals and them… no-one else. Not only is publically slamming unprofessional, you also risk breaking any NDAs you may have signed with clients and any codes of conduct of professional associations that you are a member of;
  • Set an example to the next generations. New translators are sponges. They absorb everything their elders say and do. Lead by example;
  • Challenge those who conduct themselves unprofessionally. As Edmund Burke allegedly said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

With this in mind, and even though it’s easier said than done, we should be better than who we are and struggle with ourselves in order to do so. Someone said nasty things about you on the Internet?  Not a problem, refer to the ad hominem attacks above and ignore them or outsmart them with a logical and professional answer. This or that client offered you a lousy rate to begin with? Not a problem, refer to the clients that won’t pay our rate above and explain this to them or ignore them. Finally, and like Lloyd pointed out, we should set an example to the next generations. We all started somewhere and we all have our share of responsibility to make the trade as professional as we like to be treated, so be good and stay good. As usual, all comments are more than welcome and encouraged, so be my guest and feel free to enter the discussion. Best of luck.

Mediterranean Editors & Translators Meeting 2015

Higly Noble and Distinguished City of Coimbra

Mediterranean Editors & Translators Meeting 2015

Versatility and readiness for new challenges

October 29-31
Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Coimbra
Coimbra, Portugal

Biblioteca-Geral-University-of-Coimbra

No, it’s not Le Louvre, but the University’s Library.

Coimbra, City of Knowledge. Five hundred years before the birth of Christ the town was already inhabited by the Turduli Oppidani, an old Lusitanian people that was later on sent away to Hispania Ulterior (nowadays Galicia and Castilla y León, Spain) by the yet to be known Julius Caesar. In 1143, the city became the first capital city of the now Kingdom of Portugal, and most people still ignore that, to this day, technically IT STILL IS the Portuguese capital city, as it’s the only one ever declared as such in official documents that were never amended. In short, throughout the ages the city has had vital national and international importance, mostly due to its 725 year-old university. As the proud born and bred Conimbricense that I am, I can say we’ve been around for quite some time.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Quite nice stationary.

Come 2015 and Coimbra is still a matter of lore and legend: its University, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the 10tholdest in the world is a case study both in Portugal and abroad. Its students are also recognized worldwide for many characteristics, but especially due to the facts that they were the reason behind the creation of Amnesty International and also because the only two Portuguese Nobel laureates have graduated from the University of Coimbra. Moreover, the city has some sort of unnatural magnetism on people. Ask most students of Coimbra where do they intend to go after graduating and the answer will seldom vary: “Go?! I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying in Coimbra!” Ask any taxi driver from any part of the country to describe the symbol of the Academy and the answer will be unanimous. Finally, and as a curiosity, one of Coimbra’s students proposed for the first time in 1878 that images could be transmitted at a considerable range. You know, as in miles away. In some sort of device, like a box. Not a massive box, but one that could fit inside your living room, for instance.

varoufakis

Back: Faculty of Law; Front: Some Greek bystander.

It’s not too surprising then that MET decided to choose the venues that are Coimbra and its University for this year’s MET Meeting, which I attended almost a month ago (I’ve been so busy with college, work and driving lessons that only today did I start writing about it). I have recently become a MET associate as I believe it is indeed a noble and serious association, not to mention its online resources are plentiful and relevant. Then, I found out that my colleague and friend Andrew Morris would be attending the event as a speaker, so my hometown + meeting with new and old colleagues + learning = where do I sign?

The Arts building was the obvious choice, especially since it is so close to most main attractions of the city; curiously enough, my first ever college test was aeons ago right next door in the Faculty of Law, so some good memories were sure to come to mind. This part of town is obviously the most emblematic, and even though I didn’t have that much time to get to know to program in full I decided to attend the “Getting started in medical translation” workshop included in the Meeting’s attending fee, and which was presented by Anne Murray and Barberà de la Conca. I pre-registered on Thursday and was immediately given a quite nice woven MET bag with maps of Coimbra, a pen, several leaflets, a note book and a handy MET Meeting guide, along with my badge for the event. I didn’t have that much time to look at the program, and soon enough the guide would prove to be my best ally during the event.


Day 1 – Friday, October 30

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Anne Murray’s workshop on Medical translation.

My day started at about 9 AM with the “Getting started in medical translation” workshop. Anne Murray was concise but clear, and I’m all in favour of new information and translation opportunities, which is why I decided to delve a bit further in medical translation. Like Anne said, you don’t actually need to be a doctor or have medical experience in order to become a fine medical translator, even if it helps. What really matters is your dedication and endless search for information, be it with fellow colleagues or through documentation. However, this field is so ubiquitous that I’m still not sure which sub-area I like the most (as I usually choose between one and three in order to excel; again, we’re translators, and not experts at everything followed by an ‘etc.’), but I’m guessing that my time schedule these days won’t let me even think about starting doing medical translations as I need to read and research a lot before doing so.

During the workshop’s coffee break I got to personally acquaint some staple Portuguese colleagues like Allison Wright, Paula Pinto Ribeiro and Rui Sousa, all of whom are directly involved with APTRAD, our very own national association for translators. APTRAD‘s work so far is staggering! In less than one year, what started as a response to some other lenient and basically uninterested Portuguese translator association soon started to make agreements and partnerships with companies and universities, call on mentors and lately organise a massive international event  with some of the industry’s most relevant names. I will certainly become an APTRAD member come January 2016 or sooner, as I acknowledge that Paula & Co.’s work is simply making a difference, not to mention that it can obviously help me as well as a translator.

machado de castro

Machado de Castro’s partial city view.

After the end of the workshop, yet another coffee break and time for lunch in the nearby Museu Nacional Machado de CastroNot only it is an important museum as it has one of the city’s best views, so dining al fresco was the way to go. The second half of the first day started with Laurence Anthony‘s “Journeying among the disciplines in language consulting: a personal account”. This plenary talk interested me as I never did an editing job, so I was quite curious to what I could learn from this expert. I was taken aback with how precise and certain you have to be when doing such jobs. Fortunately, Mr. Anthony came up with his proprietary software Antconca freeware analysis toolkit for concordancing and text analysis. This talk certainly made me think even further that we are misunderstood and mistreated for the professionals that we are, and I’ll certainly try to learn more about editing.

Coffee break came once again, and afterwards I attended “The translator’s invisible toolkit”, lectured by Andrew Morris.

No chairs, my friend, no chairs.

No chairs, my friend, no chairs.

Curiously enough, I was the third to arrive to an empty classroom, which ended up with people standing and sitting on the ground for the lack of chairs for so many attendees; clearly a success. In short, and using his skills as a weathered speaker, Andrew explained why is it that we sometimes fail to accomplish what we propose to do business and personal wise. Instead of focusing on our surroundings, we should start looking inside us and introspect until there’s nothing that escapes our grasp, as that way we’ll certainly gather more experience and more complex things will then start to make sense. Nothing too physical, and yet there’s food for thought here.

I and Andrew decided to go for a beer or two and a Fado night at a nearby Fado cathedral, A Capela, which was a disappointment mostly thanks to the raspy voice of the singer, not to mention his sub-sub-par English. The musicians were mighty fine, even if out of tune. As I am a Fado aficionado, I thought it honestly couldn’t get any worse, but then came the singer, and the trio ruined what could have been a perfect depiction of one of Coimbra’s most valued treasures. Contrary to popular belief, Fado is only performed in two cities, Coimbra and Lisbon, and both couldn’t be more apart from each other: the guitars are not the same, nor is their tuning, which creates two very different sounds; Lisbon’s Fado is

Practicing our moves for the next day's Rugby World Finals.

Practicing our moves for the next day’s Rugby World Finals.

sung by men and women alike, while Coimbra’s is strictly sung by men; the first is applauded and cheered vividly by the audience, while the latter is not to be applauded or cheered at all. Finally, while Lisbon’s Fado is more oriented to the popular masses and is usually jolly, Coimbra’s Fado is mostly about the life of the students, longing, yearning, the sadness of departure, melancholy and nostalgia (you’ll see what I mean at the end of the article). It does have merry songs, of course, but they’re a drop in the ocean. As I explained Andrew the differences, the show started and we watched for no longer than 4 songs or so, after which we left, me clearly embarrassed. Thanks for showing a foreigner how to not have fun, A Capela.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Ever heard a cat scratching a black board? I have!

After that, it was time to call it a day and head home to get ready for the second conference day. So far I was really happy to be back to my city and to my first alma mater, even though I realized very early on that Law was really not my forte, blame it on Law & Order and Boston Legal if you will. I stayed at my mom’s for the 4 days, and funny enough sentences like “Oh, dear!” or “Well, as long as you’re happy with whatever it is that you do…” means that she still doesn’t have a clue about what I do after almost 7 years in the business, even though she knows I still owe her a Tupperware container from last visit. Some things never change.

Day 2 – Saturday, October 31

black_cat_peeking2

Careful – I rawr!

Happy Halloween! As I was home I decided to call some friends in order to know where they were planning to spend the night. It’s not like Halloween is celebrated that much here, although over the years it has spread a bit more. However, if there is a city in Portugal that is perfect to celebrate the occasion, then that’s Coimbra, and it wouldn’t be the first time I celebrated it here. A great night it would be.

The first morning parallel session was Jackie Senior’s “Versatile expert or a jack-of-all-trades?” followed by Katie Anne Whiddon’s “Challenge by Choice – creating your own opportunities and measuring risk”. Even if brief, more knowledge, especially when it came to Jackie’s talk and what to do in order to thrive. After all, sometimes having a couple of specialisms is less productive than having none. I still am trying to change specialisms, and I’ll have to decide on what to do before January, so this session was actually quite helpful to make up my mind.

I had to miss all other morning sessions as urgent work came up (yes, that’s who I am!), so I joined the colleagues at 1PM for MET’s lunch, where I met yet again some staple colleagues (like Maria da Graça Pereira, Tina Duarte and Ana Luisa Lourenço, for instance). Because I wasn’t planning to attend the talks in the afternoon I dined and after left again with Andrew looking for a place to watch the World’s Rugby Finals. Little less than 3 weeks ago we rooted for Wales in London, and today we were rooting heavily and steadily for the All Blacks (who else, really?!). Since I had plans for the evening I bid Andrew farewell and departed next day.

Briefly speaking, I was quite overwhelmed with MET’s organisation in all senses, which lead me to think that the bet was more than paid off. From the lecturers to the catering service and the professionalism I was toasted with, all I can say is that I’m clearly interested in attending MET 2016 in Spain. For that, my sincere congratulations to everyone involved in the event, mighty fine job you did.

And because I still haven’t boasted too much about how proud I am to be from Coimbra, maybe this video (“Fado da Despedida“, literally meaning “The Farewell Fado”) can express what people feel about the town when it’s time to leave, be it temporarily or for good. Much like “Saudade“, some words are meant to be felt instead of explained, often failing when trying to do so. The Portuguese are masters of melancholy, but we from Coimbra take it a notch higher. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you all very soon.

London was Calling (And I Heard it in Stereo)


A
fter last year’s meeting in Paris to commemorate the launch of “The Book of Standing Out”, expectations were high about what it would be like this year. Not only did Andrew Morris dub the meeting as the Standingoutaganza as this year it took place in London, in the whereabouts of good old Albion. However, there was no book launch to commemorate this time, so what would it be all about? I mean, we talk to each other every day on Facebook, so what should we expect from it? Just an informal meet and greet of sorts to get to know whoever would like to appear? Yes, also, but that was not the whole point, something I realized later on.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Me and some large random clock in the background


First things first: because Paris was a shame in terms of sightseeing and discovering, this time I arrived Wednesday morning so I could have the proper time to get to know as much as I could, and much as I could was in fact so much that my left leg was still sore after a week. Since it was my first time in the UK, getting to know a bit more of the culture and everyday aspects of London was a must. Except for some places that I avoided on purpose (Madame Tussauds, for one), most of it were brilliant and denote the pride that Londoners have of their sweetheart of a town. All things considered, I was in for several treats for the next three days. Rule Britannia!

The first thing you realize when you get to London is that everything is expensive (as in “absurdly expensive”) if you’re not used to the city’s lifestyle – from the outrageously high transportation fares to a simple pint or espresso, there is teeth biting everywhere, and you will certainly feel it. In fact, my bank account cursed me several times while visiting, but then again you only live once. After the initial monetary shock, you start seeing The City for how beautiful it is – if it’s not the majestic and timeless monuments, then it’s the small details that make it worthwhile. Like crows instead of pigeons in the gardens outside the Churchill War Rooms (King Charles St) or the squirrels that feed from your hand pretty much everywhere. Like in any megacity, you also see people in a hurry and you can feel the stress of everyday life. Which is why there’s a pub on every corner, so you can relax every now and again.

D
uring my 3 days off I managed to visit most of the places I wanted to, from Westminster (Big Ben, Houses of Parliament,Churchill War Rooms and then London Eye, etc.) to Richmond Park. It’s easy to see why Londoners love and foster their cultural inheritance – how can they not when there’s so much nobility, good taste and an understandable but light sense of protocol everywhere? The architecture could very well been constructed yesterday, even the Victorian, such is the care that Britons invest in the buildings. The main streets are unnaturally clean and organized. But the real gold is the people – even though you can feel the rush, when you ask for directions people pay attention to you, they stop to give you information and even crack a joke or two. If English humor is very fine, English manners are just exquisite, and not taking the time to appreciate the way of life of this people is simply rude.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

When it comes to consumerism, London is to adults what Disneyland is to children – on every corner, something wonderful. If it isn’t Harrods, then it’s any of the high-end stores on Regent St. Here, money doesn’t talk, it screams, and if you’re not deaf, you’ll soon be broke. Apart from Harrods, the only store I paid a visit to was Church’s, whose shoes are something out of the ordinary. Is it worthy to acquire a 100% handmade pair of shoes for the average starting price of £500? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. However, the customer service offered by Church’s is something bordering a Bond movie. As I didn’t see a specific pair of shoes I was looking for, one salesman invited me to have a seat in a lavishly fine leather sofa while he called the master shoemaker, which in turn asked me for specifics and offered insight and custom options so the house could provide me with a pair of shoes of my own design. Maybe now the price doesn’t seem too disproportional, see? That made me rethink the way I approach my clients, to be honest, and it was a lesson learned at the cost of a 15 minute talk. Or zero.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I couldn’t go to such a city like London without taking the time to visit the overwhelming cultural offer everywhere you go. I took the time to go to The Albert and Victoria Museum and also The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, and much like Le Louvre, all I could think about was why hadn’t I arrived earlier – I reserved one day to visit both museums and it was not enough, so please don’t ask me why I didn’t visit Tate Modern, The British Museum or The National Gallery. Mental note: next time, arrive one month prior to the meeting.

The Albert and Victoria Museum is dedicated to art throughout the ages, from BC to the present day, where world religion and traditions play a major role; some of the best triptychs I have ever seen are on display there. Then, the Natural History Museum was a breath of fresh air. From Darwin to the Moon, it’s all there. I’ve always been a sucker for anything natural, so seeing a slice of a giant sequoia, original specimens from Darwin’s seminal oeuvre majeure “The Origin of the Species” and the paleontology collections was well worth the trip.

However, and of all the places I had the opportunity to see, the one that shocked me the most was certainly Richmond Park. Imagine a 3.7 miles park with deer, squirrels, ducks, parakeets, skylarks, ponds, natural trails and what have you inside a megacity. That’s Richmond Park. You can see The City from the park (even St. Paul’s cathedral dome), which is something I’m not used to due to such strange dichotomies. I filmed and photographed mating deer, birds, squirrels, even tree surgeons working, and it took me a while to remember that I was still in London. I travelled with two Inn mates (and not inmates, mind) I had met the night before, a lovely French teacher and her retired military father, so it was actually a memorable day in the wild. Moreover, it’s amazing how likeminded people connect and go out of the blue, just like that.

 P1120423 P1120405 P1120472 P1120477 

And after 3 days bathing in civilization, it was time to get ready for The Event. I rented a place at walking distance from Le Lumiere in order to be able to wake up not too early and still have time for a fry-up. British cuisine isn’t particularly flashy, and to be honest the best I’ve had during my stay was a couple of fry-ups, but this alone is robust and hearty enough for you to skip lunch. Another highlight was a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie with Picalilli, a very chunky, round small pie filled with delicious brit ham. Missed the puddings, but you can’t have it all on your plate at once now can you? In any case, I’m decided to have another go at food next time I’m in the UK, preferably with more time to research British cuisine.

Standingoutaganza! – I SURVIVED!

so

What’s white, bright and filled with light? Le Lumiere is, of course. I was actually the first to arrive at the venue as I was so close, and after meeting lovely Brigitte and Andrew I decided there was still time for a cigarette and an espresso in the vicinity. Outside, Londoners kept being Londoners – café terraces were full, tea pots and scones present at every table, the waiter asking if I’d like some milk to go with my espresso (clearly revealing his unawareness of my nationality) and with that usual Saturday morning calm sensation. How’s life, you ask? Hunky-dory, old chap! Hunky-dory! That would actually change the next day, much to my horror, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

Andrew did exceed all expectations this time. Even though Le Lumiere wasn’t that easy to find (I still abhor GPS and still have to know what my smartphone’s capable of, which definitely is much more than I can on my own) and the entrance of the building left me a bit confused if I was in the right place, but upon arriving at the room it all made sense. I helped myself to some quite pleasant Spanish red and people started arriving, so meeting new colleagues and some I met before helped to break the ice. This time, circa 80 people heed the call, which was almost three times the number of attendees in Paris, so I guess something’s done right. After 2 hours of mingling, feasting and yet more red wining, I was given a pen and folder and was ready. As it happens, and because there were so many SO members this time, Andrew reintroduced himself, talked a bit about his life experiences and what led him and by association all of us to a white room in the middle of London, with people coming from as far as Canada, Portugal, Italy, France, Norway,… you name it, the UN would have been proud. Because the photos alone wouldn’t do justice to the event, why not check the video and see what you missed? Talks of a 2017 Standingoutaganza! in Milano are currently under discussion though, so fear not.

The meeting revolved around SO and what it represents to whoever feels like joining a clean and mature space where professionals have the chance to speak their minds without being cast aside or looked down, no matter if they charge 3 or 30 cents per word, always with the typical humor that is so rooted within the group, always respectfully. We got together in small groups to discuss the Standing Out spirit, what the group actually is and its future. In little more than a year, Standing Out became a fixture for translators looking for something out of the ordinary, where people communicate without being bullied, where everyone’s free to join and leave, where a distinct set of individuals sharing an above average general culture meet and greet and support each other. So is it a support group? As well, yes! At least compared to most translator pages, which are unsupportive to say the least. But, above anything else, it’s a place for translators that believe and share the common idea that being positive actually works, just that.

I remember the future

The part that indeed interested me the most was certainly the future of Standing Out. At first, I was clearly unimpressed with creating even more Standing Out pages as it seemed to me things were getting out of control way too quickly. SO this, SO that, SO bla bla bla, etc. However, this week I was astonished with how many new members decided to “come out of the closet” and introduce themselves mostly through… the new pages. Yet again, Master Morris has (fortunately) proved me wrong, even though I didn’t think that new pages would bring forth new players. Shortly speaking, more pages are coming out soon enough, along with the main page, The Clearing and all other sorts of plans that Andrew and the gang may think of and have time to manage. This will certainly renew the interest of new colleagues that may find Standing Out not only a safe haven but also a way to increase their revenue. Which leads me to the next part.

One of the newest pages is Standing Out Exchange, which is destined to offer fellow colleagues a chance to get a bit more work and to also network in a more “physical” way online, not to mention to help colleagues by answering their doubts. Some time ago, and inspired by what Nathalie Reis did after the Paris meeting, me and a few other colleagues suggested to Andrew that an online spreadsheet where all interested colleagues could insert their personal and professional details as well as a place for colleagues to delegate work to other colleagues could very well be a good idea. Andrew thought that could work too, and lo and behold, The Standing Out Exchange comes to life. Some colleagues have already found the right professional to delegate their work to, so the bet paid off. After that came Standing Out Travel, destined for those looking for other SO members for a meet and greet and a drink no matter where they are, and then The Standing Out FR<>EN and The Standing Out IT<>EN, where French, Italian and English speakers are equally welcome. In short, instead of segmenting people, these pages managed to unite them even more. Hats off, Andrew.

And so it came to be that the meeting ended and we headed to Trafalgar Square for a much debated and heated rugby game at The Admiralty. Helás, Wales lost to a more finely tuned Australia, but still managed to advance. Then, the company and the pints helped to mitigate the loss, so not all was lost. We parted ways with Andrew and Brigitte, and me, Volker Freitag and Peter Bowen strolled around London, met some more colleagues at The Black Friar, and strolled for a bit more and later on parted ways as well. After all, I was leaving to Portugal the next day at noon. Or was I?

Admiralty

Something wicked this way comes

During the last couple of weeks, anything that could go wrong in fact did, even after arriving Portugal. My wallet was stolen some 5 days before going to London, and so I lost all my cards, including credit, debit and the identity one as well. The day after, my son disappeared for 5 straight hours, which left my body sore from the tension for 3 straight days. Then, I realized that my bank doesn’t update my balance in real time (unless we’re talking about their international fees, of course) and that on Saturday I found myself with a single debit card and moneyless in the middle of London, which made me ask a colleague for help. Then, on Sunday, Ryanair refused to let me pass unless I would pay £50 for the same trolley that I arrived with at Stansted in order to board and return back home; either that or declare my entire luggage as lost property. As is, and because I was (and I fool you not) £10 short of £50, I didn’t catch my flight back.

Fortunately, my sister lives in Exeter and I was lucky enough that she’s on a sabbatical leave from work and had plenty of time to accommodate for a couple of days at chez soeur, and since I had never seenSAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA my younger nephew before I thought it was my best move in order to not unleash brimstone and hellfire throughout the entire airport. Sometimes, bad things happen for the best reasons, and I loved Exeter so much that I am planning to relocate there very soon. As for Ryanair? I decided I wouldn’t ever travel through a low cost and even lower morals airline. Much like our job, the cheaper option usually ends up costing you an arm and a leg (in my case, circa 400 euros more). I had quite a nice (even if brief) time in Exeter, and it reminded me of my hometown quite a lot – people living their lives in pleasant slow motion, not too cosmo, not too countryside, and with a more than enough offer in general terms. What’s not to like? Leaving it behind, of course.

Because the two weeks were still not over, I only stayed 2 days in Exeter and had to leave at 4.30 am, this time headed to Luton Airport. 3 airports in 7 days isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but what are you going to do? This time the departure really happened, and I was jolly and happy until I arrived Lisbon. I was tired, hungry and feeling frustrated with the bank situation, but what depressed me the most was that I was back in Portugal. Make no mistake, I do love my country, but after visiting the UK all I could think of was returning as soon as possible. To sum it all up, it was quite an uncanny holiday after 15 or so years without one. Happy? Sure. Just not as much as I could have been. And now it’s time to get ready for Coimbra in less than two weeks from now for MET. I honestly hope to see you there. Thanks for reading, and see you next year.

full colour

NETWORKING – THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF OUR TRADE

If there is one primordial need that people crave right after breathing, sleeping and feeding, that need must certainly be connecting with a fellow human being. I would go as far as saying it’s even more important than reproduction – all things considered, you need to connect to someone in order to reproduce, at least the old fashioned way. Not only do we connect with each other for personal interest or gain but also for a fundamental characteristic that, along with intelligence, has made us the dominating race on the planet: cooperation. Imagine a writer, a musician or a sports team – they all rely on cooperation in order to succeed, in order to achieve a goal. The sports team’s members cooperate with one another so the team wins, a musician looks for other musicians in order to compose music, and the writer signs a deal with his publisher so his novels are read by as many people as possible.

Nowadays, and thanks to the proliferation of social media, some might think that connecting with others in living color is a thing of the past, much like vinyl was thought to be replaced by CD’s. After all, the technological advancements we have experienced in the last 25 years allow us today to press a button and start talking “face to face” with anyone on the planet. Come to think of it, even with someone that’s outside the planet. However, catastrophe soothsayers have been around for thousands of years, and they all were wrong. Yes, you may very well speak and see someone hundreds of thousands of miles apart, but why is it then that people still insist on live meetings and reunions? The answer is simple: because there’s still no technology that can replace human live contact.

Let’s imagine a comic book aficionado, an opera enthusiast and even a computer coder. They couldn’t be more apart from each other, and yet they all have a common interest: meeting with other people that share the same interest. Not only that, but how would the comic book aficionado sign his extremely rare copy of “The great Nerdenko” #1 without going to a comic book convention? And how would the opera enthusiast feel the real emotion of “Carmen” if not by attending a live performance? Not to mention the computer coder, who even though is so dependent on the Internet, has the need to meet other coders live in order to talk about something that feels like general anesthesia to any given normal person. “But I’m a translator/proofreader/designer, how is connecting live with others helpful at all?” Oh, but it is.

Networking 101 – Multiply your contacts, knowledge and income

Knowledge

Enter networking, a ubiquitous (and yet sometimes ignored) tendency that is in fact more valuable to a freelancer than it seems at first. Much like the examples given above, meeting with fellow colleagues is not only interesting from the personal progress perspective but also from the monetary one. Personally, all I can say so far is that the Standing Out meeting in Paris gave me a whole new perspective about translating and proofreading, thanks to the countless colleagues I was able to interact with. Not only that, but I also took the opportunity to acquire two books that have provided me plenty of insight for the last year, both in terms of market behavior and techniques to boost my income.

4 years ago I wouldn’t even dream of attending a meeting in Lisbon (let alone any other European capital) exactly because I thought that meeting with colleagues to talk about translation/interpreting/proofreading would be on my wish list only second to skydiving without a parachute. After all, what would I be talking about? CAT tools and schedule applications? Besides, and because I was just getting started, I wouldn’t know where to start, not to mention that I had the need to carefully manage my revenue in order to pay for the bills, food, an occasional night out and everything in between, which meant that spending some 1000+ euros on air travel, accommodation, food and in-town transportation would be prohibitive. No, that whole meet and greet thing was not for me. Except that I was very wrong and hadn’t yet started to understand the implications of seeing and be seen.

And so it came to be that I realized that social media was good at connecting all sorts of people, professional translators included – first came Facebook, then Twitter, soon followed by LinkedIn. In a short amount of time I saw people talking about how to raise fees, how to better choose clients and especially talking about this and that professional event. At first, I would enter any Facebook group that had “Translators” in its name, be it The League of Extraordinary Translators, Things Translators Never Say, Freelance Translators and on and on in order to read and learn. Not all that glitters is gold though, and that lead me to leave some of the pages I initially joined and look for other that would be healthier or more adapted to my style. This pointed me to a page called Standing Out. At some point I started connecting with other regulars and soon after I was asked to revise an urgent job, and some others followed steadily. When the owner of the page decided to do a meet and greet in Paris, I didn’t flinch.

Paris was a lesson that will lead me to two international trade events in October, the first in London and the second in Coimbra, Portugal (my hometown, poetic as it may seem). As for the money, I can now say that investing a given sum in one event is exactly that – an investment. Besides, I divide the investment over a period of 5 to 7 months, as after all I can afford to pay for air travel this month, accommodation the next, etc. But why was Paris so critical? Simply because I got to know plenty of colleagues from all over and discuss the state of the union, which in turn provided me with a list colleagues that would later on contact me whenever they were asked about someone up for a job, and because of that I actually got several large to very large translation and revision jobs since then. Would I get the same jobs if I hadn’t been there? Maybe. But I doubt it very much.

Networking is the way

I love to communicate. Ever since I started thinking and reading and writing, it was clear that I had been born to communicate, something easy to figure if you’d compare my vocabulary and general culture to other kids my age, even older ones. Talking and writing was as natural as breathing, and from that to socializing was just a small step. But how do you socialize and get to know other people with the same propensities if you do not go out and introduce yourself? Sure, you can always rely on the internet to keep up with your income and pay for the bills and fine vacations and whatnot, but will you evolve? I’m sad to say that you will not.

I know quite a lot of people that use translation as a means to an end – I work and I get paid for it. However, when it comes to drawing a strategy for the next couple of years, most will tell me something like “We’ll see when I’ll get there.” It also happens that quite a few of them will not be in the trade in the next couple of years, as “something” went wrong along the way, and so they will return to their 9 to 5 job of old or will try something new. There are those that will keep working off the internet alone since what they earn is more than enough for them – they stick to a rate, find a new client once in a blue moon and prefer not to risk their comfort zone. The first usually stops contacting, while the latter sometimes contacts offering a job and answering “You’ve raised your rates to HOW MUCH AGAIN?!” after I propose a quote. Finally, there are those that work off the internet and try to grab as much work as they can, even if sometimes they don’t have a clue of what they’re getting themselves into and then prefer to invest their earned money in fancy vacation trips abroad every year instead of investing it in education or networking. I’m alright with any of those, but none of them is me as I believe that my vision is a cut above theirs.

They don’t understand that I have raised my rates twice in a year because they stuck to the same old tactics, they’ve stagnated, while I preferred to evolve and keep going on. Yes, my last vacation was in 2000, and no, I still can’t afford to go on vacation and attend all the professional meetings that I want to at the same time. Next year I will though, but it took me almost 5 years of investment to sort things in order to allow myself a more than deserved one week holiday in the sun come 2016. The point of all this is simple: if you want to get better in all senses, sooner or later you’ll have to start showing up to see and be seen. Networking is not a question of being worth the investment or the time, but of when will you start. And yesterday would have already been a bit late.

Three reasons to get started

uno

Instead of going full throttle, I decided to base the article solely on my experience and the experiences of some colleagues, as I am not an authority on networking but understand that it is necessary in order to thrive. As is, you might digress on some conclusions or statements, but I can only say that it has worked and is working for me, so maybe adapting each to your views and needs may prove to be the best move. I would actually be very pleased to know that you have different opinions and would like to share them after reading the article, so don’t be shy!

SEEING AND BEING SEEN MATTERS

I cannot stress this enough: even though most of the times our work is done remotely, there’s nothing like meeting the person who is paying you, be it to discuss more intricate project issues, to let the person know who you are and, above all, to express your availability and interest. Whenever I can, I meet my private clients so they can associate the person to the work. I’ve done it only four times so far, sadly, as most of my clients live abroad, but I am seriously considering travelling through Europe whenever I find a premium client that accepts my rates and work methodologies. Let’s imagine that you have to go to Florence for a weekend to meet with one – given the shame low airfare prices these days, do you really think that investing 200 or so euros on the trip + accommodation & dining will leave you breathless every once and a while? This led me to think that if private clients are worth the effort, why wouldn’t professional colleagues be worth it as well?

After my moderately large first meeting, all I can say is that being there is essential. As above, a colleague gathered all the particulars of each attendee and made an excel file for each one of us so we could refer each other whenever needed. In the following months after the event, I had referred colleagues to other colleagues and even to premium agencies looking for particular specialisms. I also obtained little more than 10 projects in less than a year, and a single one of them paid about what I spent in between and in Paris. Letting others know who you are pays off. I do not believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I guess that you can complement an 800 word text piece with your picture and obtain an even better result.

KNOWLEDGE

The best way to learn tricks of the trade from other colleagues is in real life. Yes, there are far cheaper ways to try to learn them, like connecting to Facebook, but in real life your colleagues will consider you a member of the herd, so to say. This type of social intimacy is absent in social media, especially because we (wisely) like to build walls and fences about our personal and even professional lives. The same is not true when you meet with other like-minded fellows in an event, as it’s easier to make bonds. After all, you’re there, so you must be part of the same hive, right?

I have learned quite a lot on my last event, from ways to assure your clients that you’re worth every penny they invest in you to raising rates and having your clients thank you for accepting them as such. Yes, you’re not the only one who has to be thankful. If you think about it, and assuming that you are a professional, your clients should very well thank you for the fact that you have accepted to invest your time taking care of their jobs and not the other way around. Then, brainstorming with other colleagues is always better than alone (the “2 heads is better than 1” principle): you could get excellent ideas to renew your website, stationary and even how to raise your rates.

ONGOING PERSONAL GROWTH

If you’re planning to keep on translating, you’re aware that keeping in touch with the times is the only way to go. Much like you started to use CAT tools or Dragon when you realized that they would save you tremendous amounts of time, and what is that if not growth? Networking can certainly help you grow in a continuous but sustained way. By sharing your experiences and discussing topics with other colleagues, you will inevitably learn how to become better. What are your expectations regarding new clients? How can you get more? Is there a way to save on taxes? And what are the latest news about the trade? Are you sure that your tactics are in fact the best? And if they are, don’t you think other colleagues might praise you for the tip? Needless to say, everyone will cash in on one another’s experience, hence enhancing each one’s personal growth.

Three common problems that people face about networking

321go

A friend and esteemed colleague of mine complains regularly about almost everything, as nothing is helpful– if it isn’t the website that is not bringing any clients, then it’s because networking and mingling with colleagues is uncomfortable; if it’s not networking, then the problem is that being positive solves nothing; if it’s not being positive, then it’s being negative that solves nothing. See what I’m trying to say here? It’s easy to blame this or that, make up excuses and keep blaming everything else when things go wrong. But what are we willing to do for it to become right? Because it starts with us, see?

I’m not trying to establish a religion or a self-help act like some less positive colleagues suggest, mind, but if you don’t step forward, how do you plan to get new clients, more work and knowledge? In this particular trade, and unlike most, your prime is at around 50 or so years old. Mine will only come at least 10 to 15 years from now, but until then I will try to learn and mingle with others as much as I can in order to get there in fine shape. That is why I decided to pursue a college degree and a subsequent Master’s Degree at 38 years old. Late for this or for that is but a concept that YOU define for yourself.

PLANNING

As such, the first step is to find a group or even an association (e.g., Proz) and plan ahead. I started planning my London and Coimbra trips 7 and 4 months in advance, respectively. Because I had plenty of time before the meetings, I started to pay things up in fractions. I paid the air fare and accommodation in the first two months, for instance. By doing so, not only do you have plenty of time to plan ahead as you will discover cheaper alternatives. The part that usually hurts me the most is transfers. At first, I was tempted to go for the airline’s transfers at about 40 euros (roundabout), but then I discovered that some other airline would do the exact same service for… 9 euros. Easy decision, yes?

THE INVESTMENT

By now you’ve certainly noticed that I keep referring to money as an investment and not expenditures. That’s what it is, as I plan to obtain my investment back along with a surplus. Anywhere you go, any investor will tell you the same – you invest 1 to get 11 back. By meeting with other colleagues your work load will increase, it’s mathematical. Additional work inevitably leads to even more work, and so we can say that it is a mid to long term investment, but that always pays off in the end. I believe that the investment is in fact quite hefty in the beginning, but curiously enough, when I arrived from Paris last year and checked my balance I was appalled to verify how little I had spent there without ever thinking of saving money. Briefly speaking, a single large job or several smaller ones awarded to you by someone at an event can pay in one month what you invested over the previous seven, and then some. And what better time to raise your rates than at an event like this?

SOCIALIZING

No matter if you’re good with people or not, stop to think for a second that you’re in the communication business, meaning that you have the obligation to know how to communicate. Personally, people are my beach – I love to talk to and get to know new people, am quite the extrovert and have a robust knowledge about a bit of this and a bit of that. However, it’s OK if you’re the opposite: you don’t need to know how to address the Royalty, nor talk about Euclidian architecture in the Middle Ages or be smiling like you’ve won the lottery the entire time. A joke or two has its place, as does seriousness and professionalism. Just be yourself, and above all else remember that you’re certainly not the only one feeling unconfident. If all goes wrong, just have a few more glasses of that great Pinot they’re serving and soon enough you’ll be the star of the meeting (let’s hope for the better reasons).

To conclude, I decided to write a bit about my personal experiences of late because some colleagues asked what my thoughts on the matter were. Will it always be like this? I’m sure it won’t, we always find thorns along the way, but even their sting is helpful to remind us that they exist and that you can learn to avoid them in future events. On the other hand, I’m absolutely sure that opting to not network with other colleagues is a heavy toll that you’ll have to pay sooner or later. For those of the Standing Out fame, please check the Facebook page for a novelty that is related with this article. Even though the article may not be new to most, feel free to comment and discuss, I’m certain that I’ve missed something or that I’ll learn something from you too. Thank you for reading and aim for the stars.

On the importance of choosing the right professioanl… professinl… sorry: professional!

I have been debating lately the importance of professionalism in our trade with several colleagues, as it seems to be heading in the wrong direction due to some subprofessionals that charge way less than a lucid and real professional. I’m sure you might think you know where I’m going with this, but do you? What if I told that I am not referring to 3rd World translator wannabes that struggle for everyday bread, but to a specific and more ominous ilk that might be right next to you as you read this – unprofessional but trying hard to look professional ‘professionals’? Those and ‘industry leaders’ that offer wretches peanuts and grim working conditions to keep on getting richer and richer. To be honest, these are the ones that really make me sleep with one eye open.

Said ‘professionals’ have common modus operandi – they offer their services and apply to every project there is without even considering how ignorant they may be on the matter at hand, even if it involves translating to a language that is not their native one. They also apply higher rates than said 3rd World wannabes, even though the quality that they usually deliver is proportional to the latter. When they finally realize that a certain project is way out of their league, they consult a real professional to do the work for them and thank said real professional with a thank you. No, literally – a thank you! The money? Well, you know who’s it going to.

But what about the client?

“Oh no problem, he/she will eat anything! After all, I cultivate this image of being a professional translator, yeah?”

As for ‘industry leaders’ (and I mean large ventures like The Big Word or Lionbridge), a.k.a. ‘large companies that don’t have a clue about what translating is all about’, they care about two things: income and the name of their clients, so they can lure other heavy names as their next clients and also to fool starting professionals or subprofessionals that don’t mind being underpaid. This is not new among the circles I usually attend, but I’m quite sure prospecting clients wouldn’t know it.

So, who can the client trust? No one; not even me. At least not until he/she has seen the result of a job. Looks can be deceiving – just because one ‘looks’ like a professional, it doesn’t mean that he in fact is. So what should YOU, the client and the colleague, do in order to defend your interests, hence making sure you hire the right professional? Maybe the suggestions below can be of help, even if moderately:

1 – Don’t hire non natives to do the job

Think about it for a second: do you really think that, no matter how much studies a professional has, he can ever translate one of your language’s sayings accurately? Okay, maybe I’m being too specific. What about a legal document? Would you trust a non native to do your legal bidding? What about a medical document? That leads us to a deeper issue that usually also occurs with these ‘professionals – the lack of qualifications/knowledge/experience to do a job well done.

2 – Always make sure that the person you’re hiring has extensive experience in the field

Do you know what a xmas tree is? What about a piconet? Chiaroscuro, maybe?  Unless three of your specialisms are Oil & Gas, IT and Art, you probably don’t. And that’s okay – that’s why I offer my services in these fields, because I’m well aware that I can be an asset in these specific specialized fields and in some other more general ones. However, if you are looking to translate finance or medical documentation, then I cannot be of help, as I don’t have the proper knowledge to help you. Informing you that I am not the right person to the job is not just a matter of being upfront – IT’S AN OBLIGATION! The next best thing I can do in this situation is to check my contacts of trusted colleagues and point you to one that specializes in the scope of your project’s field.

3 – Don’t be shy to ask for a small test    

Some colleagues will be more than happy to provide you with a small text, whether it’s paid or unpaid, and it’s usually a good way to see not only if the translator is capable but also a bit about himself as a professional. In my optic, if someone refuses to do a paid small text is by itself a red flag.

4 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are my client I will make  sure that when I am not personally capable of delivering you your project I might know someone who is. That way I am certain that your business will bloom, and so will mine. As an example, I work with a professional colleague in some Law fields – I would not EVER propose to do the job myself because I am not a Law expert, but I would pass your project to my colleague. The same goes for any other field that I don’t master as long as I know someone that specializes on said field and I trust the person to do exceptional work, sometimes in other language pairs than my own, so ask – it’s free.

Short as this article may be, my intention with it is to raise client and colleague awareness to a different sort of plague that is now more common than ever. If you are a client that opted to deliver your project to a professional, it’s clear that you privileged quality over price to begin with, so the logical next step is to know who you’re hiring. If however you are a colleague, be careful with who you refer to your client. It can backfire nastily and it’s your name on the line.

 

 

 

 

Wails and woes of the Portuguese Orthographic Agreement

 

pessoa

(‘My motherland is the Portuguese Language’, one of Fernando Pessoa’s most iconic sayings)

 

Full Definition of AGREEMENT

1

a :  harmony of opinion, action, or character :  concord

 

b :  the act or fact of agreeing

2

a :  an arrangement as to a course of action

 

b :  compact, treaty (…)

 
(Merriam Webster)
 
Some of my clients are not aware of the massive changes that the Portuguese language is undergoing for the last, oh, 25 years (!), which is fine – we ourselves don’t seem to understand it too, and we’re Portuguese to begin with. Let me shed some light on this topic putting a bit of humour into it so you don’t fall asleep with all the technicalities.
 
First and foremost, the definition above couldn’t be more far away from the Portuguese Orthographic Agreement (henceforth AO). There is no agreement, concord or treaty to begin with, since Angola, Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Mozambique did not adhere to this (what else?) economic political  move.
 
The AO was created in the name of linguistic uniformisation between all Portuguese speaking countries (Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Mozambique) but to be honest it’s only written as it is in Portugal. Brazil kept it’s written language basically unaltered. Moreover, Brazilians are against the AO. Lusophone Africa refused to enter this masquerade and kept Portuguese as it were. That being said, and to be simple, it’s still Portuguese but written mostly according to Brazilian Portuguese. Confused?! That’s OK, so are we. It got to the point that even journalists and other professionals started writing according to the AO and old Portuguese! At the same time! In the same article!
 
The full uniformisation of a language as spread and complex as Portuguese is is not only hard, as in fact it’s also impossible. Even though Portuguese is the mother tongue of 7 countries, did you know it’s also spoken in East Timor? And in China? And in India? Then, the most debated aspect of these changes is the (lack of) concordance even in Portugal. Even though a small minority of the population agrees to it, it’s a stifled cry compared to those who oppose it, from politicians to philologists and writers.
 
This debate is so heated that some newspapers in Portugal refuse to write according to the AO, while in more extreme scenarios some prominent judges send entire stacks of documents back to be redacted as they don’t consider what is in them to be Portuguese. Yes, you can mess with our economy, but try doing that to our language and cultural heritage.
 
FAQS:
 
“Can you or can you not produce work according to the AO?”
 
I certainly can. But then it will look like a watered version of Brazilian Portuguese – not only will it look artificial and like it’s filled with plenty of typos, it will not read well to the Portuguese public you’re aiming at.
 
“So you’re saying I should not follow the Portuguese orthographic legislation?”
 
I’m saying that by having your work done according to the AO your documents will look like they’re targeting the Brazilian market. Free tip – that’s the first step to undermine your entire operation.
 
“Hence, I should stick to old Portuguese, yes?”
 
It’s always your choice in the end, but as a professional that’s the only option I can recommend, exactly because you want your texts and documents to read well without a single eyebrow being raised at any time, which won’t happen if you opt to use the AO.
 
Got trickier questions or doubts? Please get in touch and I’ll be more than happy to clarify.

Lessons from Paris

82ea7e91cbd54b3e2b3e921c4dc4bef9_large

From the 28th to the 30th of  November I went to Paris  to attend a friend and colleague’s book launch (“The Book of Standing Out”, by Andrew Morris). Apart from the launch, I thought it would be a great idea to connect with other fellow language professionals on an idyllic city, where thrills and things to see are just endless. Since Marta Stelmaszak was one of the attendees and speakers, I actually bought her book online and we both agreed that I would get it in Andrew’s book launch, so what’s better than one book? Exactly – two.

The first thing that hit me when I got there is that many people in Paris speak French! A lot of them do, actually, so much so that I thought I had just entered France or something! Apart from that initial shock, I can say from experience that Parisians must be the most polite and friendly people I had the chance to meet while traveling in Europe (and I’ve traveled a bit, mind you), not to say civilized.

Wherever I went, the love that Parisians demonstrate for animals was ever present, be it in the tube (massive ads for the Christmas of Homeless Animals) or just by crossing people on the streets walking their dogs or cats. Then, the streets are constantly impeccable – no garbage or animal dejects on the ground, everything in its right place and, unlike any other mega capital that I visited, orderly and serene except for the usual traffic noise.

Andrew suggested a meet and greet of sorts with anyone willing to show up at Place des Voges on the night before the event, and so, after 5 very short straight hours in The Louvre, I headed his way to a quite enthusiastic and warm welcoming, as some 8 or so attendees heed the call. We had some beers, dined, had great moments of pure talking satisfaction and said our goodbyes until the next day. Quite the first experience after almost all day long taking pictures, mostly inside The Louvre.

On Saturday morning I left my apartment early enough so I could stroll the streets, since it was just a mere 3.5 Km walk from there to the Gentle Gourmet, the vegan restaurant waiting for a feast of puns, feelgood moments and also serious discussions about the trade, the way to look at it in a professional but also good mood way and, above everything else, the sense that some translators don’t need to talk trash or be rude to others thanks to some superiority complex that resembles autism in more than one way. “Let others vent that way if they feel that’s the way to go” – my inner voice told me. “You’re just better than that and you know it.”

I am quite the introvert when introducing myself to new people, especially since I consider myself the rookster in the business. Yes, after a “Hello, I’m João, very pleased to make your acquaintance”, things usually go smoother than Johnson’s baby oil from there, as I’m a social animal but I still need to polish that first and yet critical contact with others. I guess that shyness doesn’t help as well. Fortunately for me, most other colleagues weren’t shy and everything went very well, thanks to the “easygoingness” of people like Elisabeth Lyman, Volker Freitag, Lucinda Brooks or Brigitte Martinez. Thank you all for being a natural antidote for awkward social moments.

The event was obviously spearheaded by Andrew, which made us think that there’s more to the business than simple money, aspirations, highs and lows and publicity – in fact, the biggest lesson that I learned was that we’re human, both the professional translator and the client, so adding a human touch to a professional relation only makes things go your way. Most may think that a happy client is the one that pays you peanuts for your work, while I prefer to believe that a happy client is the one that couldn’t care less about the money that he pays you as he knows that it’s well employed, making it an investment instead of a payment.

Most people that say that Andrew says nothing new, or that they’ll never learn anything from him or that all he talks about is common sense mixed with self-help, are the same that go in circles talking nonsense about clients, or that for some reason have nothing better to do than to distill animosity. Some others are frauds that really want you to think that they live in a different universe, where they are paid €0.50 per word, where they don’t work for agencies but to a very selected range of imaginary clients and that there’s no such thing as heliocentricism, exactly because they’re the sun on everyone’s everyday life. Like my son César Correia brilliantly resumes it in three words, “Haters gonna hate”.

indexPersonally, and after reading “The Book of Standing Out”, I won’t act like a delusional muppet and say that I would never learn anything from him or from anyone else for that matter. Maybe that’s because you can always learn from everyone, no matter how tall your high horse is. I accept that I’m a novice compared to many other colleagues, and that because of it I’m more certain to learn a couple of things that are old news to older peers. However, Andrew never promised me to deliver the mother of all solutions on a platter, but instead decided to write a brief and yet interesting and well written book of how he sees the profession and how we can capitalize on it, whether we agree with him or not. Which is as valid as the next guy’s point of view, I guess.

His book is filed with personal experiences and comments, as also from habitues of his Standing Out page on Facebook. Besides the motivation and good humour throughout the book, Andrew encourages you to look at our trade and approach it with a particular set of eyes – moan less, act more; write less, call more; risk more, not less; aim higher, not lower. It’s fair to assume that not everyone is going to find it as interesting as I did as (as above) I’m only four years old at the job, but I have no doubt that there’s valuable insight inside it. To be honest, following one of Andrew’s simpler advices netted me two new clients last month, so I can’t complain, far from it. Briefly speaking, the investment is more than paid by now, so give it a try if you think you should. As for the others? Well… “haters gonna hate.” (Copyright © 2014 CÉSAR CORREIA. All Rights Reserved.)

Enter another book that I was eager to read – Marta Stelmaszak’s “The Business Guide for Translators”. Putting it in martasimple terms, I am an erudite at both Portuguese and English languages. Both my discourse and writing capacities are fluid and natural, advanced and polished. However, when I enter the logistical and business sides of the trade I can say without a doubt that I sometimes lose money when I accept this or that assignment, as Marta’s book clearly explains.

Not only is Marta a high-end translator but also one of the most respected translation business professionals internationally, thanks to her plurivalent knowledge of translating and business school allied to a concise and analytical (and yet so interesting) exposure of ideas, tactics and truths. I am currently reading the third chapter of  the book, digesting it slowly as some of the concepts are still very elusive to me, but in a few days I learned more about the business’ more intricate parts than I previously had in four years.

So what makes the book so special is the fact that, like myself, there are countless other translators that don’t know how to optimally conduct their businesses, because… well, they never attended business school to begin with. I fool you not: if there’s a book right now that would take my money for value award, this would certainly be it, as buying my copy was an investment, both financial and knowledge wise.

Curiously enough, both books should be blended into a single one if you ask me. Imagine a book that on one hand was filled with personal experiences that would motivate you to aim higher with a joke or twelve in the process and that, on the other, would provide you straight to the point and in depth professional business information that would make you lose less time and earn more money. That would be The Business Guide for Standing Out Translators, I’m sure.

What lessons, then, have I actually learned in Paris? Andrew is a unique, charismatic orator. Marta is the impersonation of business meets chic. Vegan food is actually delicious and non-toxic at all, while French people don’t have the slightest clue of how to serve an espresso but, on the other hand, are amiable, jolly and quite well mannered. I also learned that The Louvre Museum needs approximately 387 and 1/2 weeks to be properly visited, and that I thought that I looked better on photos than I actually do.

Oh well, let’s hope London and Andrew’s next book launch will see me fitter. Until then, you can buy “The Book of Standing Out” here and “The Business Guide for Translators” here. My suggestion? Play safe and grab yourself a copy of each – your business will thank you.

10819137_10201778522864542_115474910_n


 

 

Latest development

Great news: Natives in Business now provides Legal translations from English to Portuguese, thanks to a cooperation between the studio and a professional freelance-lawyer colleague. Got questions? Send us a message for a fast but comprehensive assessment and reply.

keep-calm-and-love-law-37

Contact Us

Our success thrives thanks to your enquiries, compliments and criticism, so don’t hesitate to contact us for a fast reply.