Today, a translation project leader should have some specific skills. We'll take a look at these skills and declarations of some colleagues that have already put them in practice. These colleagues have proven that improving one’s skills is necessary to be successful in the market.
As we all know, the only thing that leads to excellence is education. Being a professional translator is a task we must take very seriously to establish parameters of quality and do an excellent translation job.
Six key ways to stand out and develop the new profile demanded by the market are illustrated below, with statements from experienced colleagues. All of them, from different parts of the world, told us that improving the practice is the most important point.
To promote our learning capability, we should essentially make a permanent analysis of our careers, understand our faults, see what still needs to be learned and assume the challenge of always being an increasingly better translator.
Today, it's impossible to perform our work with only the knowledge we learned early in our careers or simply based on the idea of perfectly mastering a source language and a target language, or think that technology is only for experts. Working without exchanging experiences with colleagues and ignoring the market developments are practices condemned by experts when considering the translator of the future. The profession may be old, but times have changed...
A planning and a constant work evaluation are essential in the routine of a good professional translator.
This new configuration of the translator's professional profile is the result of the current market demands. We used to think that the main function of a translator was to perfectly translate a text from one language to another, but now we see that it also involves a certain attitude, an active attitude of analysis, self-assessment and constant study.
Having a Good Education
To both proofreaders and translators, key language skills and general knowledge of culture are necessary; nevertheless, little is said about the reading ability that each one should have. It is widely known that an error in the understanding of a word or an expression can significantly affect the performance of both professionals: the first, when "correcting" where there is no mistake, and the second, when "translating" an incorrect interpretation to another language.
Reading archaic or rarely used words is often a problem. An interesting case is the word "inconcuso", which according to the DRAE [Royal Academy Dictionary of Spanish] means: "firm, incontestable". If either an inattentive proofreader or translator believes that the word contains a mistake and should be "inconcluso", he/she will radically change the meaning of the word and, therefore, distort the message. For example, in this excerpt: "Despite the lack of reliable historical data regarding the origins of Plato and Aristotle philosophy, there is, however, one incontestable [inconcuso] fact, that is: such philosophy origins is linked with the work of Socrates (...)" (Xavier Zubiri, Naturaleza, historia, Dios, 1932-1944). If, in this excerpt, we use "incomplete" [inconcluso] in the place of "incontestable", it will suggest that the connection of Plato and Aristotle philosophy with the work of Socrates is an "unfinished" fact. A big mistake!
In short, the rule for all proofreaders and translators is to be extremely careful in their reading. They cannot rely only on their knowledge, forcing them to use dictionaries and encyclopedias every time they come across seemingly strange words or phrases. Being aware of this aspect will avoid losing professional prestige and gaining angry readers.
Ricardo Tavares, Proofreader and Morphology and Syntax Professor at the Andrés Bello Catholic University - Venezuela
Using New Technologies
When we talk about "new technologies", besides the common technological resources (computers, Internet, search engines such as AltaVista, Google, etc.) and the corpus linguistics tools, there’s a number of computer tools that should be considered by the translator: the so called CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) programs.
Also called "translation memories", CAT tools shouldn't be confused with Machine Translation (MT).
Translation memories are databases created by the translator himself/herself, in which the translator's own translations are stored. When translating a new text, the program will suggest the best choices available in the memory file, always based on the previous jobs.
The international clients, specially those from Europe, no longer ask "if" the translator knows how to use a CAT tool, but “which” one(s) he/she works with.
And working with such software applications primarily means understanding how much these tools can help and how to take advantage of them without compromising the quality of our work.
Ana Julia Perroti-García, Translator Italian > Spanish > Portuguese <> English - Brazil
Continuous Update, a Competitive Advantage
Changes occur at an ever-increasing speed, and much of what we read today is about how we as translators must always stay up-to-date to keep up and succeed in this globalized world. But, what does being up-to-date really mean?
An up-to-date translator should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is happening at the academic level in our native language and target language?
- What technological changes or developments are directly or indirectly affecting our profession?
- What is happening in the translation industry and market?
- What's new in our area of expertise?
There are many tools available to help answer the first three questions. Professional associations are an excellent source of knowledge and news; belonging to such groups is essential, just as following the discussions that arise in different specialized blogs and portals. Actively participating in conferences or other events on translation, both locally and internationally, is another excellent way to be informed of the latest issues and expand our network.
With regard to the fourth question, continued education in the specialty that we have chosen (in my case, engineering) is not only a differentiating factor when setting fees, it also allows us to meet potential clients.
In summary, the translator who invests time and money in these activities will always be up-to-date and will have a competitive advantage. Seizing this advantage depends on each one of us.
Laureana Pavon, Engineer and English <> Spanish Translator - Uruguay
Working in Groups and the Importance of Partnerships
Do you enjoy working in pairs or in groups? I do. I enjoy it because I always learn a lot from my colleagues' work.
I know most translators don't enjoy teamwork, and many even refuse work together with others. I've participated in discussions where everyone was criticizing all the other translators and proofreaders of the world, claiming that they were pick and incompetent, apparently forgetting that, elsewhere, someone might be saying the same thing about them, because we are all the "others" of others.
Of course I've seen shoddy translations, translations that have demanded lots of work, and my translations have also been reviewed by people who do not deserve to be considered professionals. Nevertheless, every job has taught me something. I’d never have reached my present level of professional competence if I hadn't edited other translators' work and if mine hadn't been revised by other colleagues. I realize that much of what I’ve learned so far has come from paying attention to the best solutions, sometimes for problems that would have taken me years to solve; it's always encouraged me seeing these jobs as opportunities, rather than problems. I don't regret that.
Danilo Nogueira, Translator English > Portuguese - Brazil
Self-assessment and Planning
Let's get to the point: everyone knows a translator is evaluated for every comma, typographical error and poorly-sounding phrase. Reviewers and revisions are not well seen, but they are essential to self-criticism development and must be given the utmost attention. It's a PRIVILEGE, and not a punishment, to be corrected and know your own mistakes.
Not being self-demanding is out of question in this profession, with regard to the final result. We have to keep the highest level of quality in our work all the time. Errare humanum est, but you have to create tools to make it the exception, and never the rule. The translator who continually makes self-excuses and doesn't assume an attitude of professional growth cannot progress; we must face our weaknesses and work on them. We have to determine the root cause of our failures: habitual mistakes often have an internal - and often emotional - reason, which must be analyzed and treated with effective and efficient solutions so that the translator can advance to a higher level of performance.
For many night owls, not being connected early in the morning to check emails can be a problem, as it may cause them to lose jobs: planning the day so that nighttime isn't the main part of the "work day" is a very important first step and one of many possible solutions. But neither should we try to change this attitude too fast and think that we will abandon a lifetime of habits within a week; this would only lead to frustration. This type of change takes up to three months to become second nature.
Planning our work also means planning our personal life. If you're having an unproductive day, maybe a walk on the beach or some coffee with a friend can do more for your work than four unproductive hours in front of a computer. Of course, the time set aside for revision must be sacred and without distraction: no social network or email, and plan the work for that part of the day during which your concentration is at its maximum. Finally, an optimistic attitude toward work and motivation are the keys to a successful career. But that would be the subject of another article...
Elisabete Coutinho, Translator Portuguese <> Spanish, English, French, Italian, Catalan > Portuguese - Portugal / Spain
The Translator’s Professional Attitude
Most clients who need a translator want to work with a professional translator.
Although millions of translators call themselves professional translators, few of them are what a customer would consider a "professional translator". Why? Because very few translators have a truly professional attitude.
And this is not about looking in the mirror and repeating: I'm a professional translator!
The professional attitude comes from the translator, for better or for worse.
• A professional translator knows him/herself: he/she knows what he/she wants from life, is aware of his/her own strengths and weaknesses and, above all, knows what he/she's worth.
• A professional translator is ethical: he/she doesn't scam others, discredit colleagues or ridicule his/her clients.
• A professional translator cares about delivering quality work, is always checking his/her work (and not just to a certain point), knows the quality standards of his/her area, understands how clients measure quality, thankfully receives feedback and is continually up-to-date.
• A professional translator is a communicator: he/she knows people, is sympathetic, knows how to listen, is capable of understanding and has good judgment, knows how to negotiate and market him/herself, is attentive, is considerate and builds relationships (and then business just comes!)
Once you have developed the skills described, or at least some of them, your work consists of being able to communicate through your presence, your voice, your way of speaking, writing, laughing and dreaming: I'm a professional translator!
And this is the point: the true professional translator doesn't need to say that, he/she just shows it.
Johanna Angulo, Proofreader and Translator English, Japanese > Spanish - Chile
These are the six key points, and such recommendations from our experienced colleagues are also an invitation to incorporate the skills above in our daily lives and improve ourselves every day.
Author: Víctor Gonzales
Coauthors: Ana Julia Perroti-García, Danilo Nogueira, Elisabete Coutinho, Johanna Angulo, Laureana Pavon, Ricardo Tavares.
Translator: Nick D'Agostino - Portuguese > English Translator
Proofreader: Silmara de Oliveira - Portuguese < > English Translator