Posts Tagged ‘Interpretation’

A Good Year After All

December 28, 2007

At close to 395,000 words translated this year, plus a substantial amount of editing, 2007 was a good year after all.

In particular if you consider that I do all the translating myself (apart from a little help from WordFast and Naturally Speaking), I can say it has been a good year. Of course, I am not including some voluntary, i.e. unpaid work in this total. I am not including conference interpreting either, because the unit of measurement is different (number of working days, and preparation days not accounted for, as I explained in a previous post) and there is sometimes some overlap with translation work, although I find it increasingly difficult – age must be the reason – to combine these two very different intellectual activities within the same day.

Financially speaking, it has been a good year too. By this, I mean that I was able to charge my own fees, and only on few occasions felt tempted to accept a little lower paid jobs.

This is no small feat. I remember the gut reaction of a translation agency secretary who approached me a long time ago. She wanted to know how much I was charging, and when I told her the figure, she simply cried out: ‘But that’s exactly what we charge our customers!’ ‘Well’ I said, ‘that is exactly the reason why I don’t work for translation agencies. I don’t want to work for a fraction of the price that my work is worth.’ I can accept small adjustments, depending on the client, deadline, etc. but I do not accept low-paid jobs.

It all depends on how you see things: I haven’t been able to update my fees in more than 10 years.

Depending on my mood of the day, I can say: ‘I was lucky to be able to resist the drop in translation fees that has happened in recent years,’ or ‘I am unlucky that my fees have remained unchanged, when just about everything else has gone up:’ social security contributions, taxes and rates, food, clothing, utilities (oh my God, haven’t they gone up a lot?), insurance, fuel for my car, office stationery. The only things that have gone down, telephone bills (sort of…), computer equipment (but I buy a new computer every 2-3 years, so where’s the big deal?). And these bills HAVE to be paid.

Some blame it on the introduction of the Euro. I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: I don’t earn more than 10 years ago, and some years a lot less, and I spend a lot more on necessities, and this includes things like books, etc.

o why do I say that it has been a good year, AFTER ALL? Because, on Jan 1, 2007, I had very little idea that it was going to be that way. If I accepted low-paid jobs, I would probably be able to work night and day, 40-hour days. I mentioned in a previous post 2-cent jobs I once saw posted on Proz. Do I want to work night and day? No. Is it possible for me to become a millionaire, well why not a billionaire even, translating millions of words paid 4 cents? No, not if I am doing the work myself, and not if I don’t compromise on the quality delivered.

So in exchange for some uncertainty and roller-coaster sensations, I am free from a lot of other constraints, and I like it better that way.

This doesn’t mean that I work full time and translate ‘only’ 1,500 words per day. Sometimes I have been able to do more than 7,000 words in a very full day. But the rest of the time, I have been able to engage in other, equally satisfying pursuits: studying a new language and learning about a new culture, going to the movies in the middle of the day, meeting people, seamlessly being away on a short vacation and working at the same time, etc.

I don’t live in luxury, and I have my own share of problems, like anyone else, but I am able to say that I feel fulfilled by my job/life combination. And I would love to cram even more things in my life: some serious traveling, for instance. That is why I’m looking forward to receiving my copy of The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. I don’t wish to become a billionaire doing no work at all, but I’m told that there is an number of interesting tips and work/life considerations in it.

So my 2008 wish for myself, and for all those who are kind enough to read my blog, is this:

A satisfying quantity of a satisfying job, and a lot of good life.

And if only I knew how to do it, I would add a lot of sparkle around this 😉

Let’s meet in December 2008 and see what we have achieved. We might be in for a lot of surprises!


Looking for Google Talk Testers

December 19, 2007

I am looking for fellow translators and/or individuals seeking good quality translation and interpretation, who are willing to test with me the new Google Talk feature that I’ve just found reported here.

I haven’t got into the detail of it, but there is a selection of languages. Needless to say, anyone interested has to be prepared to ask for more than just ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s the Weather?’ etc. If this kind of tool was to make a real impact, it would need to be excellent.

You may contact me via my Facebook Profile on the right, or via my Facebook page.

I’m very interested in this new feature, and will report on it as the test goes.

Food for Thought

December 19, 2007

I’ve just read this excellent piece written by a freelance interpreter, the Editor of Communicate!, A.I.I.C.’s newsletter.

What can I add? Nothing. It’s clear, to the point, and describes the usefulness, indeed the need for interpreters and translators worldwide.

We are not an industry, we are not products, we are real people doing real jobs and needing to be considered, and paid, accordingly.

I Really Admire Your Work!

December 12, 2007

Wow. We’ve all heard it. It’s always sincere.

And it’s the perfect ice-breaker at lunchtime, but once the ice is broken, it doesn’t take us very far, especially at a —— meeting (you may fill in the blank as you like, anything ‘technical’ will do).

‘I really admire your work!’ ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ ‘I don’t even speak English fluently’ (from French speakers).

The problem is, WE know how WE do it. We know it so well that it has become standard practice for us, and we tend to under-promote our wonderful skills, to put it mildly. So we mumble a few words of appreciation, about learning the job, practicing, and so on. If we start to describe what it takes to become an interpreter or a translator, people begin to get bored.

How can we promote our skills in an environment that is simply so different from our practice? I’ve been pondering this for ages, in particular during those lunchbreaks where we end up eating (the team of interpreters, I mean), separately from our audience.

The story is quite different when I am hired to do consecutive interpreting. I accompany my clients to meetings, they get used to me as I get used to them, we sit in traffic jams together. We have time to exchange, mainly on their subject. I can be of value to them, in particular to those visitors from America, as they see me not only as their ‘French voice’, but also as a source of information, especially on study tours. One visitor used me once as a sounding board on the subject of GMOs in France.

Their message is important to them, and so it’s important to me, and I make sure that they know it. That’s probably our best promotion tool.

Tell Your Story

November 26, 2007

I have submitted a story to the From Our Lips to Your Ears project.

If it doesn’t get published, I’ll post it here.

If you are an interpreter, you can tell your story. See all the details below (as provided by From Our Lips, the deadline is now February 2008):



July 18, 2007

Dear Interpreter,

What an important job you do each day, and what fascinating tales you must have to tell about the people you’ve encountered, the conversations you’ve interpreted, and most importantly, the lives you’ve touched.

Now, you have the perfect opportunity to share these stories in an enduring publication, so that others may read them for years to come. The only question is this: which of the many stories you’ve saved up over the years will you decide to share with the world?

The FAQ and Guidelines at the official website,, will help you choose, and will also show you how to ensure the best chance of publication in an exciting new book that is all about you and your important work:

From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters are Changing the World

The project website will provide you with all of the information you need. Here are some of the basics:

· Interpreters working in all settings are encouraged to submit stories.

· Stories should aim to provide readers with a greater understanding of the importance of interpreters’ work

· Submissions are accepted online, via email and via postal mail, starting on July 18, 2007.

· The final deadline for submissions is December 3, 2007.

If you have questions after reviewing the information on the website, feel free to contact me, and I will be happy to attend to your concerns. As additional questions from potential contributors are received, the FAQ, Guidelines and related materials will also be updated accordingly.

It is both an honor and a pleasure to be working on this exciting project, in the hopes that it will help bring greater recognition to interpreters everywhere.


Nataly Kelly, Editor

From Our Lips to Your Ears




Language Interpreters to be Featured in New Book

July 18, 2007 — Nashua, N.H. — The publication of a new book that will showcase interpreters and their contributions to society was announced today. From Our Lips to Your Ears: How Interpreters are Changing the World marks the first published compendium of stories about this unique and complex profession from the perspective of interpreters themselves.

“Millions of people throughout the world communicate each day without sharing a common language,” explained Nataly Kelly, editor of the publication, “This book shines a light on the unsung heroes that enable much of this communication to take place.”

The book will include personal anecdotes from interpreters working in an array of settings, Kelly said. “Interpreters are out there each day, helping deliver babies, interpreting witness testimony, rendering the words of foreign diplomats, and assisting consumers who wish to purchase goods and services.”

The stories in the collection will cover a range of topics of interest to the general public, Kelly pointed out. “This book shows how interpreters are helping meet a basic human need— the need to communicate with others.”

More information about the book is available at

The web site also provides detailed information for interpreters who would like to share their stories for possible publication in the book.


Nataly Kelly, 603/891-1101
Fax: 877/572-0779

Too Busy Today…

November 22, 2007

Too busy preparing the documents for tomorrow’s conference.

Clients who complain that conference interpreters charge high fees do not realize that we do have to spend some time before:

  • reading their presentation papers (when they do provide them);
  • preparing a glossary of words, acronyms, etc.;
  • surfing the internet for articles and glossaries on their subject;
  • and more generally spending as much time, if not more (especially for a one-day assignment) as we will spend interpreting.

And I’m not even mentioning:

  • experience,
  • years spent studying, then expanding our knowledge in various fields, etc.

Paid vs. Unpaid Translation-Take 2

November 19, 2007

After this first experience, I retreated from formal voluntary work for a long time. I don’t have the guts to work for Amnesty International, for example, and I feel a little guilty in that department.

Having thus lost myself in translation for many years, there came a point in my life when I wanted to make myself ‘useful’ again, and I started voluntary translation (written).

But, how do you reconcile a busy schedule with voluntary work?

Voluntary organizations, especially the smaller offices, need a commitment that makes your work meaningful. I assigned one day per week to one particular organization. One day can mean a lot of money for a translator, so it wasn’t a fixed day, I was able to move it in the week as I needed in order to cover an urgent deadline, or I couldn’t work around a paid project. And with modern technology, I was still able to receive notifications of projects offered by my clients on my mobile, so I wasn’t losing anything.

From my observations, I can list at least 3 good reasons for doing this kind of voluntary work during your working life, and I can tell that this was truly a win-win venture. It has broadened my expertise into the field of community development, where I can now work with confidence and get paid, it has broadened my social network, as I made a few friends through my voluntary work, and my personal perception is that you can assert yourself more as a professional than when you are just a student or a beginner. I phased out after the one-point-five-million-word mark, it was probably more because I didn’t start counting from Day 1. I wasn’t bored, but I needed more personal time for other pursuits.

I also do occasional unpaid work for friends, but also for young people (not homework, though!). There is a young lady out there in a US university, whose transcripts I translated so that she could get accepted. I was so proud for her when she did (she got in because of her brilliant ratings, not because of my translation)!

Paid vs. Unpaid Translation-Take 1

November 19, 2007

When young translators look for jobs to improve their practice, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘voluntary work’. A good idea, as it provides real-life practice, something that one is keen to get after a couple of years of learning how to translate.

When I started out as a translator, about 30 years ago, one of my first assignments was voluntary interpreting at a conference of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament held in Bradford, England. We were a small group from the same Paris university. Bradford seemed cold and grim, even in July, but the first evening, we ventured outside in search of a restaurant, only to find what seemed to us a crowd of Pakistani young men hanging out in the streets, just standing, not moving, looking very sad and idle and lonely… so -those were the days- we hurried back into the conference, into the comradeship of (unpaid) workers for a Good Cause. Our working conditions were very amateurish, probably violating every single rule ever devised by our international association, but this was offset by the warm, genial atmosphere.

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