Agency heroes and omniscient colleagues: Report-back on lbls's workshop for translators


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We're happy to report good attendance of the workshop for translators hosted by lbls on 26 October – and judging from the lively participation and the battery of good ideas that came out of it, everyone had a real good time! 

Once everyone had been safely guided to the venue (kindly made available to us by the Bethel Family Centre), some muffins and rusks were washed down with a mug or two of coffee and we were ready to go. 
The workshop kicked off with the following quote by veteran translator Lanna Castellano, about the translator’s career path:
A million thanks to you for an informative and eye-opening workshop. We appreciate all your efforts and kindness. You are indeed different and we love you already. Wish you all the best!
“Our profession is based on knowledge and experience. It has the longest apprenticeship of any profession. Not until thirty do you start to be useful as a translator, not until fifty do you start to be in your prime."
This was much appreciated by all, especially since many attendees could congratulate themselves on being in their prime, then!

The agency's armour

Our first topic of discussion revolved around what an agency can be expected to do for service providers in return for its part of the spoils. To start with, we chatted about the agency's efforts in setting itself up to conquer the picky, finicky market out there. 

Some of the battle plans discussed included:

  • marketing through its website and various social media platforms, 
  • maintaining a database of well qualified and experienced suppliers, 
  • keeping all certification up to date, and 
  • wooing the bigger clients and completing all the necessary paperwork to become a preferred supplier to them. 
And that's only the start of it! 
Once the marketing hurdle has been crossed come the logistics around quoting, sourcing service providers, and dealing with the delivery and receipt of work. As regards the work itself, there's dealing with issues that may arise during jobs, researching terminology and performing quality checks, to name but a few. Last but certainly not least, we discussed filling the treasure chest – the invoicing and payment process, and other bookkeeping work.
There was a moment when proceedings had to be interrupted to save the presenter from succumbing to a cleaning-fumes attack by the carpet, and we took the opportunity to move to a well ventilated – read: slightly windy – lapa and fortify ourselves with some more caffeine. 

The agency's heroes: its translators

Next on the agenda was the matter of what agencies expect from service providers. General expectations include being contactable and then, once committed to a job, available at all times; only taking on work when you're able to meet the deadline; letting the agency know at once if something happens and you can't make the deadline after all; only taking on work that falls within your field of expertise; and not passing on work to your best friend's aunt's cousin to do.
The workshop was great and it was great to meet you.  I definitely think there should be more of them on the topics that were discussed.
The translation process was discussed next, and here we looked at issues such as identifying, and translating for, your target audience; and keeping in mind, while translating, the world-wide move towards plain language. At a more practical level, we talked about the importance of first scanning your source document before starting with the translation itself, and clarifying any potential problem areas. Upon completion, the translation should always be proofread, preferably on hard copy, and it's important to run a spell checker over the final electronic version if there's one available in your language. Punctuation and format got some attention, and so did common sense – it's no good submitting a translation that sounds like... well, a translation!
On the topic of polishing your translation, one good reason for doing so, it was pointed out, is the existence of the client's omniscient colleague. All clients have them. This colleague will be asked to review the translation, seeing that he or she 'speaks the language', and then feel obliged to shoot your product full of holes – with no regard whatsoever for the rules of language. Make sure you don't give them any fodder for their guns! That is, clean up your document nicely before submitting it to the agency!
In between all of this Erika ambushed everyone with a delicious lunch, with treats such as fresh sourdough loaves from Vovo Telo, an inspired salad and Woolies' ever popular lasagne. Victory was ensured with the coup de grace – enough koesisters, milk tarts and lamingtons to feed an army. 
After lunch a question that was discussed at some length was what measure of responsibility the translator has to point out errors in the source text. The conclusion was that small errors here and there might as well be pointed out, but anything more warrants, at most, a comment to the client to fix up their own document.
I enjoyed my morning with you very much. The subjects were very interesting and well chosen.
A fair amount of attention was given to the translator's 'weaponry', and the importance of keeping up to date with your hardware and software as well as dictionaries and other reference books. The translator is also expected to keep up his or her IT skills, as well as to keep upskilling in other work-related areas by attending workshops, seminars and other work-related events. 
Another topic that enjoyed some dedicated attention was rates. Some ideas were shared around this and we talked about how to negotiate with agencies, with the focus on translators' expectations versus the forces of demand and supply. The difference between working directly with clients and working through an agency was one of the aspects that came up for discussion. 

Strategies going forward

lbls undertook to post terminology lists in the different languages on our website, under 'Useful stuff'. Language practitioners will be invited to submit content and feedback, and in that way we can create a terminology hub for people to refer to while translating.
We also undertook to look at mentoring newly graduated translators who are finding it difficult to break into the translation market. 
And on that brave and perhaps overly confident note, we bid you adieu till next time!
Useful ideas and suggestions mentioned at the workshop included:
  • Listen to radio programmes and read newspapers in your home (target) language – you'll find a lot of terminology solutions in this way, and increase your general knowledge, which is crucial for any translator.
  • Create your own terminology lists and keep updating them. 
  • Collaborate with other translators in creating terminology lists.