Freelancing and the problem of charging the right fees

Dear readers and followers,

For a while I thought I was not going to write about this subject because it has been tackled so many times from every point of view and in countless websites. Why then I am doing it now? Because I had the most unreal conversation with a colleague and that simply made me mad. Without really quoting everything he said, I will try and give a sense of his ideas.

In his own words, he doesn’t master his first working language and would like to be as fluent in it as I am in English. Apart from the fact that my level of English is nothing extraordinary, as I explained to him, after graduating I was still struggling with it, and I reached this level by living in English speaking countries during several years and through several life events that forced me to improve a language for which I had a hearty and complete refusal. For all these reasons, he could not weigh his situation according to mine, because the two had nothing in common. That said, he admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable enough with his knowledge and that he knew that “they always say that we should not accept lower fees, but sometimes one can’t refuse or someone else will take the job.” One of the reasons he used to justify his charging a low fee was that, not being sure of his level of the foreign language, he could not always charge the regular fee.

There are many do’s and dont’s  when we talk about fees, and some are not as strict and compulsory as we often say, but the famous “Don’t lower your fees” should be the rule we live by. Charging less because we are not confident of our level of language and of the quality of our job is wrong from several points of view. Forgetting for a moment the aspect of setting the right fee, we need to remember that, if we cannot deliver a product that respects the quality standards, we should not accept the job in the first place; would you like your engineer to say to you: “I am not sure your house will be safe if I draw the project, therefore I will charge you less?” No, we expect our house to stand and last, and we hire a professional exactly for that reason. The mastering of languages is not a plus, it is our working tool; if the tool is not sharp enough, we simply are not ready, and that language cannot be one of our working languages, there is not changing that!

Enough recriminating now, let’s talk about fees more in details; that doesn’t mean that I am going to list mine here, although they are not a secret. Far from being set rules, what I will give here are some tips on how to set your fees. First of all, they are not your brand, you don’t have to choose them and stick to them forever, they are sort of a guideline for you, but then each customer is different and, without going nuts, we can adapt. Your minimum fee is the minimum you accept to charge but it is always within the umbrella of what is acceptable. It is usually not less than two pence lower than your regular fee (talking about translations charged per source word;) in my case, due to my working languages and the type of translations I do, there is no variation according to languages, but you may want to take that into account when setting your fees, because there is quite a huge difference depending on the family of languages of the source and the target. Extra charges and discounts are subjects that may be controversial: We usually all agree on the fact that we need to charge extra for urgency (20-30% seems a reasonable increase,) but we often say that there are several ways of offering a discount without actually reducing the price, as in adding additional services. Of course, that depends on the documents and it is not always possible, therefore I think we may be more flexible on this point, always respecting the market and the standards.

When setting fees, we should not forget that they correspond to time and knowledge: Time that we spend to actually produce the final result, and that we cannot spend in any other way; time that we invested in our studies to be able to perform up to standards; time that we constantly invest in research and CPD. These last two are directly translated into knowledge that goes into the final result of each translation job. Interpreting is the same, although the travel and dietary expenses need to be counted if they are not separately covered by the client. Of course, to all that we need to add all the business-related expenses that are not so immediately obvious but that cannot be overlooked (devices and subscriptions, dictionaries and software, insurances, dry cleaning, etc.)

One thing that is important to remember is that we are a very nice sector in which to work, therefore no one should doubt about asking some colleagues about their fees, that is the probably the best way to learn and to be sure that the charge is fair. Also, to have an idea and maybe present our colleague with an idea to discuss, you may want to have a look at some pages that can be visited online. is one of the main online translating communities and offers a huge list that can be browsed according to our combinations. Those prices seem fair enough, while some conversation threads are just questionable and you do not want to end up being confused and discouraged by them. Here is their search engine for fees:

The Society of Authors also offers some guidelines that are similar to the rest, and it includes some useful links as well. Here is their page:

I found this article quite interesting to read the other day. It is not about translation, but some aspects are shared by all freelancers, and I believe this article gives an idea of how we should be flexible but also how about how the process of setting our fees can be a journey of self-discovery and a way to reach awareness when we enter the market. Have a look:

Also, always keep in mind that you have webinars and talks to which you can attend and that may enlighten you on this aspect. I have recently attended to some presentations about this subject, and they are always good to have new hints. Talking about online training, the ITI’s Starting Up as a Freelance Translator course immediately comes to mind because I found out yesterday that a very good colleague has just joined the team of trainers. Not only he is a great professional, but the ITI one of the main professional associations for translators and interpreters and therefore a guarantee of quality. You can browse the SUFT here:

I have talked here as if this idea were only a problem for young translators and interpreters that are just starting, but of course there may be several reason that push us to have to set our fees. An experienced translator may have worked in-house for a long time and can after decide to start freelancing instead, although I believe he would know how to set fees without struggling in the process, and he would know enough colleagues to be able to have some advice from them. Sometimes, the freelance may need to move and completely change the market in which he works; in this case, one would usually keep the old clients, but there is always the chance of expanding the portfolio, and it would not make any sense to keep the same rate in the UK, for example, and in Peru, because the market is completely different. This, of course, takes us to another aspect that we haven’t considered but that is important: Our fees have to be adapted to the market, which doesn’t mean that they have to be lowered, but that what is acceptable vary according to the economy of the countries, and our prices need to take that into account.

There is so much to tell about this subject, but at least this introduction wanted to give some hints on how to move in the market. The most important thing to remember, though, is that lowering your fees damages yourself, your colleagues, and the whole market. If you accept underpaid jobs, you are disrespecting yourself and your time, but also all the other translators who fought to build a name and a portfolio of clients and have a respectable situation. It doesn’t matter the reason, you should never downgrade yourself and us so much as to charge unacceptable fees.

Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will, but not on the invoices!!!


MacroLenguando, que también es gerundio

Compañeros lenguantes y lectores de este blog:

Me tomé unos días antes de publicar esta entrada, pero no han sido para descansar. Hace ya más de una semana desde que empezó el Foro Internacional del Español en el IFEMA, ya ahí ha estado Knotty. Lo que os voy a contar, más que un análisis de las actividades, va a ser un relato personal de mi estancia y una manera para agradecerles a los amigos y a los organizadores todo lo que han hecho.

En realidad, para mí el evento era Macrolenguando más que el FIE en general. Ha sido algo diferente de los otros encuentros lenguantes, tanto por los la actividades organizadas como por el sitio elegido y la duración; los dos días que suele durar Lenguando han sido cuatro esta vez, con talleres y charlas, pero también con actividades más atípicas.

Por razones de viaje y trabajo, no pude asistir a los talleres del jueves, el primer día, pero he oído opiniones maravillosas sobre el de Fernando Navarro, al que quisiera haber asistido si hubiera tenido tiempo. Para uan descripción más específica, aquí le pido oficialmente a mi amiga Mercedes, de MPR Medical Translator, que escriba su propio artículo si quiere, porque sería interesante.

El viernes fue desde luego un día mucho más lleno de actividades para mí, empezando por el taller de interpretación telefónica de Gabriel Cabrera a las 10 de la mañana. Poco hay que contar sobre Gabriel y su manera divertida de presentarse, pero para mí era la primera vez que asistía a uno de sus talleres y tengo que admitir que no solo merecía la pena, sino que también el tiempo voló y ni nos dimos cuenta de haber estado ahí durante cuatro horas. La parte más interesante en mi opinión fue el hecho de poder ver la manera en la que trabaja él y lo que les requiere a sus intérpretes; yo he sido incluída también en el listado de intérpretes de una agencia que se dedica a este tipo de servicios, pero aún no he tenido la ocasión de trabajar con ellos, y este taller ha sido una manera para comparar estilos y requerimientos. Tanto a nivel técnico como de protocolo, el estilo es muy diferente, y considero muy positivo el hecho de haber podido comparar ambos y aprender también las diferentes maneras de enfrentarse a la tarea y al cliente entre España y otros países. Para concluír, la fase práctica en la que improvisamos unas interpretaciones entre los asistentes ha sido una buena ocasión para ponernos a prueba, siempre pasándolo bien.

Casi sin tener el tiempo de respirar, nos fuimos a la charla de mi querida Valeria Aliperta y su Freelance Box on tour. Echamos de menos a Marta, pero la tarde fue muy interesante de todas formas. Unos consejos eran nuevos, y unos más bien la repetición de las clases del January Business Camp de Marta misma, pero fue útil refrescar las nociones al mismo tiempo que añadíamos algunas nuevas y sacábamos unas ideas nuevas para promocionarnos de manera más efectiva y para tener claros y perseguir nuestros objetivos profesionales. La charla se alargó casi una hora más de lo previsto pero, una vez más, no nos dimos cuenta del tiempo.

El sábado fue un día particular. Sentí mucho que nos alargáramos en el viaje y no nos diera tiempo llegar a IFEMA para el taller de monólogos, pero sí llegamos para el desfile de cerebros que transformó la Pasarela Cibeles en Pasarela Cervantes. Entre una broma y una prueba, nos preparamos para desfilar y presentarnos como profesionales de la lengua. Entre bloques, las intervenciones de Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega y Francisco de Quevedo fueron defendiendo las letras y la lengua castellana. La tarde prosiguió con la entrevista a Mario Vargas Llosa y la presentación de los monólogos que ganaron el taller, momentos que, así como la pasarela, pueden ser vistos en YouTube. La entrevista fue una charla amistosa que dio mucho que pensar sobre el papel de los medios de comunicación y de las nuevas tecnologías tanto en la información como en la defensa de la lengua española.

Después de un día tan largo, estuvo el evento con el nombre mejor de todos: Lenguante hasta que el cuerpo aguante, lo que significa pasar unas hora en buena compañía en la sede de coLenguando, que es incluso más bonita que lo que se imaginaba desde las fotos. Señores, una vez más os habéis superado en organizar un evento genial, y siempre es un placer coincidir con vosotros. Tengo celos de todos los que irán a Valenguando, pero lo seguiré en el Twitter. Mientras tanto, aquí van los enlaces de la pasarela (servidora en el minuto 49:30):

de la entrevista a Vargas Llosa:

y de los monólogos:

Para acabar, este es mi vídeo personal de una estancia maravillosa, gracias a todos por haberme hecho pasar unos días tan bonitos y, si no queréis vuestras fotos por ahí, solo tenéis que decirmelo y se arregla:

Don’t forget to keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Start up businesses do’s and dont’s, a personal experience


Dear readers and followers,

You may think that this change of year has definitely killed my inspiration to write; well, nothing can be less true. I have plenty of ideas and, maybe, too little time to express them as well as I would like. Well, this first half of January has been quite busy, and I will try to keep you updated little by little, but today I just want to focus on something that may seem less related to languages than what I normally include in this space, but it is not: we are going to talk about business!

As you may know if you follow my Instagram, I have spent part of last week in what some people have called the Alma Mater. I could not find a better definition myself, for either the University -to which the term is normally associate in modern language- or the city. I will definitely be back to some of the things that happened, but also I want to use it as a starting point on this post to talk about image and branding. I am no expert, my guru among others can give you all the professional advice you may need, but I am learning “on my own skin” plenty of lessons that may be of help to all of you.

Knotty Translations is already one month old, and I can say that I am receiving some useful feedback, spontaneous or when I ask for it. So far, so good, I am quite satisfied. The reactions are exactly what I was hoping for, and even is Salamanca I found the dichotomy of supporters and sceptics I wanted. The first thing I can suggest about your brand choice is: do not rush. Take your time to figure out everything you want to associate with it. It took me months to have a clear idea of what I wanted my creature to look like, but I weighed all the aspects. When everything is clear, just believe in it and fight for it.

Second advice: use all the help you can. Even if it is just an opinion on the logo or the name, but ask the people you trust; also, attend all the events that can help you create or make grow your business, even the worst ones can help you find your direction. Here is, actually, the main point of this post: Yesterday I went to the Start Up business event in Somerset House and, believe me, that has been by far the worst event I have attended to in the last five years; nonetheless, it was useful.

First of all, how can someone decide to book Somerset House for this kind of event really escapes my power of understanding. Oh, wait, the supporting team (the organisers were careful enough not to show up to explain) clarify that: “We had 1500 attendees but, being a free event, it was assumed a 50% of drop off.” I beg your pardon? You don’t assume, you calculate that people will attend, and book a venue that can host all those who signed up, not an old building which has a capacity of one fifth of the people you have in your list. Well, that must not have been clear to them, so they decided to use two floors of part of a wing of the old building, and to have attendees waiting outside, in the cold and under the rain, without even a canopy, because people had to leave the venue before someone else could go in. And, no, I did not arrive at 12 pm, I arrived at 10:30 am, right after the start!

Does all this sound silly? Wait for the best. Of course, the rooms where as small as my bedroom, so we could barely queue to talk to representatives of the companies, and the corridors were so narrow that we could hardly form two rows to walk in and out. What was the other great idea? To use long legged easels outside each room to identify them; the result was even less space in the corridor, and people constantly tripping over the easels and dropping them on the floor. Well done so far!

Oh, come on, this is you being picky, not everyone can afford Olympia or has the EU among the sponsors,” you could tell me. Fair enough, but HSBC is not exactly a poor sponsor, and even I can think of some cheap venues that are more modern and user friendly than Somerset House, but what I just explained is just part of the problem. Don’t forget that the rooms were small, and the talk were so overcrowded that we had to queue more than half an hour before them to have a chance to get in, which meant missing the one before, because you had to queue for the following one. And that is not all, if you wanted to attend to one of the talks in the lower ground, you had to, of course, leave the first floor, losing your place; hence, if you wanted to go back upstairs you had to queue again and hope that someone would leave. The results was that I missed all the morning speeches, because I preferred to talk to all the companies that were interesting for me before leaving the priority that had costed me half an hour outside in the freezing weather, and a running nose.

What did I learn from this awful event? First of all, how not to organise an event! Then, well, it was more a brush up on what I already knew and still have to put into practice. I am currently following Marta Stelmaszak’s “January Business Camp,” and most of the tips that the doubtful business experts gave me yesterday were just a confirmation of what we are doing day by day with Marta (mea culpa, Marta, I am so awfully behind with the camp, but I will catch up between today and tomorrow!)

What really surprised me about the event was that it was actually focused enough on people who had an idea but were still in the creative phase and had not started at all, which was very helpful because they assumed you had a very vague plan about where to start from. If that can be a little too far behind what I need, it was great in general for those who arrived there in the “I have no idea what, but I want to do something” mental state. One of the nice details was without doubt the photo booth; there, two professional photographers took our pictures that we can later use for our professional profile. Mine are horrible, but let’s see what I can do with them when they arrive.

The financial support section was quite useful, if interested in receiving a loan for the business, or in buying and insurance. Honestly, it was not that useful for me, because I was looking for a cover for personal liability, and the company that was there has not included it yet among its products, and it won’t until June, but in general it was interesting.

The stands that were very useful for me were the Microsoft Office one, because I messed up with my package and I need to buy a new one (let’s not talk about this, but I am happy anyway,) the Hootsuite one, which gave me a broader idea of what to do with my profiles on social media, and the 100 businesses one. This actually is a great opportunity for all small businesses that want to promote themselves locally and get in touch with the rest of companies in their area.

Of the talks I could manage to attend to, as I said, the one about founding was not exactly among my priorities, but I see the great potential for different kind of businesses, in particular product based ones more than service based ones, like in our case. Even for myself, I got to know more about crowdfunding, and was not wasted time in the end. The second talk was more of a “show and tell” than a real inspirational speech to help us see how to succeed with our business, and I am very happy for Is that nice, but the only useful tip has actually been “be on time.” Ahem, now seriously, no, I am not going to add a comment to this. The really interesting speech, surprisingly, was the one about how to boost your business with emails. I am not in that phase myself, and I may not be there ever, but I saw some knowledge and a person who was able to share her experience and, at the same time, to give useful tips valuable for everyone and not so painstakingly obvious ones as in the previous case.

I know this was a post in which I complained a lot, but I hope you can also get some useful advices from it. To sum up my view, I would say that, if you are in the process of creating your own translation business (I use the word “translation” broadly, as often is wrongly used, to talk about both translation and interpreting, just because I prefer to avoid using / every time I can, not to talk about the awful and/or,) you should keep these basic, logic concepts in mind:

  • Take your time, but try to reach the result you desire, because once your name or brand is out, it is done.

  • Ask as much as you can, don’t be ashamed of looking like a freshman or like someone who has no clue about anything, you are starting, why should you have everything sorted out already? In particular, ask several people about the same subject, having different points of view will help you see if the advice you receive is valuable, in general or in your case.

  • Don’t take experts and their words at face value, some so-called experts have very little idea of what they are talking about themselves, and they are just as new as you in this.

  • Trust your instinct, but don’t let it blind you. That works for everything: from the idea you have to the people you trust. That is, the genius idea that you had the other night after a talk with friends in the pub may be a good start, but maybe it should be perfected during the day, and with a tea in front and not a pint; also, do not discard people on the first impression, yesterday I would have not given a penny for the PR or one of the speakers after seeing their appearance in that specific context, but I waited to listen to them, and they were actually among the most professional and knowledgeable people down there.

  • Know your limits, don’t undervalue yourself and don’t lie about your capabilities. The first part is important because at the beginning we tend to think that “everyone can do what we do.” Wrong! Maybe some people could, but the fact that they don’t doesn’t mean that it is worthless, it means that they are not interested, are not as qualified as we think they are, or cannot offer exactly what we could, so we should focus on what we have, and we will see that, in the end, we are different. The second part is also basic because it is pointless to say that, for example, we can type 60 wpm and we can use all the available tools as a pro; that may help us reach the second stage of a selection, but if we cannot back up what we declare, we will end up closing in front of us a bigger door than the one we just crossed.

  • Never stop learning and improving, the competition won’t, and you will be behind the level requested from the market very soon.

  • Keep networking constantly, you can never know where a good chance can come from. Also, keep in touch with people, don’t just call them when you need them, but build a professional relationship with them, the more loyal you demonstrate to be, the more these relationship will be loyal to you.

  • Keep taking all the chances to get in touch with professionals or more experienced businesses, even when it is a bad experience, you can still get something out of it.

  • “Be on time!” as Captain obvious says. I am joking about this, but you would be surprised by how many people and professionals actually struggle with this, and are not able to respect this basic point.

    Enough advices for today, but I think it is a good starting point, an. Good luck with you business.

    Until next and… keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Naughty Hottie has become Knotty!
Dear readers, and followers from every platform, Une belle infidèle! is back. She went through a tough time, but the mental refurbishment has done her good, and now she is grown up, she has become a naughty… oops, kn-hottie, damn, again! I meant a Knotty Translator.

This branding process has taken some time, three months between the moment the idea first entered my mind, and today. Of course, there have been phases, with clear points in time when a new step was taken, and several people who I have to thank for their inspiration, their support, their help, knowingly or not, and I hope to make justice to all of them through these anecdotes.

The first person to thank, or to blame, or both, is Valeria Aliperta, the famous Rainy London or, as I often define her, “the branding guru.” Vale, I already told you that your speech at Lenguanding left a mark on me, also because I didn’t win the mug, but mainly because I walked out from the capilla with an idea mixed with a urge: I needed a brand.

I had no idea where to start from, but I already had a certain image, a character, and I wanted to build my brand in that direction. I was Une belle infidèle! but I didn’t want to keep that name: too complicated; not too used, but still not new; but the main reason was that I saw that, to a speaker of non-Roman languages, the word “infidèle” is immediately related to religion, and I didn’t want that connotation to be associated with me. I couldn’t kill Une belle infidèle! but I had to help her grow up. Here is where my second inspiration comes in, surely not that consciously, but still very strongly, and I would like to thank Scheherezade Suriá, the Scheherezade of Las 1001 traducciones. Scheherezade, your puns and jokes, often naughty… knotty… both, have convinced me about the path to follow. Also, your pin-up girls, with their witty messages, have inspired the knotty translator that is now going to accompany my brand.

Why this name? Because translating is never easy, the texts are knotty, they keep the translators awake for many notti, and these poor daysleepers can never be completely faithful to the original, the best thing to do will always be to be naughty!

But if Valeria’s speech is the point in time that I associate with the beginning of this adventure, some other moments have pushed me towards what is happening today. The first one may sound silly, and it actually is so by itself, but it changes completely when inserted into context. In one of my TV series overdoses, I went back to watch 2 broke girls, and episode 4 of season 2 is, what a coincidence, dedicated to branding, brand image, and do’s and dont’s of the promotional phase. Watching it, I felt the final push to go forward with my idea.

The second moment is, no surprise there, my second attendance to Lenguando. I took that plane with the clear idea of presenting KT before Christmas, and of doing it by re-opening Une belle infidèle! That is when I put the refurbishing sign on. The first afternoon in Logroño just cancels every possible shadow of doubt still standing on my way. The lunch at Tondeluna has happened with a perfect timing; if I had planned it, I couldn’t have done anything better. For that reason, I want to thank my final inspirations: Molino de ideas (that is Eduardo Basterrechea, Elena Álvarez, and Elena del Olmo,) and Santiago García Clairac. It is funny that, Eduardo, you said to me: “Apologies for us talking a lot without letting you saying anything!” My serious face was not showing boredom, on the contrary. I was silently taking everything in, and the clear message of “You need a brand!” was echoing in my head. Elena must know that because, on our way back to the halls of residence, I could not be quiet anymore, and we talked about my ideas for KT.

A final thanks must go to the people who materially helped me creating the image; incredibly enough, they are, at the same time, my consultants, and some of the people I love the most in my life, Claudia Musio and Alberto Becciu.

Claudia is my best friend, my soul sister, a great engineer, a wonderful novelist, and an incredible artist. She worked out the logo and the image for me, following all my ideas and improving them, all in a very short time span. Moreover, she has supported me in this project from the first moment, as she has always done with every single crazy decision I took in my life. I love you, sister!

Alberto is my brother, my financial advisor, and the person who is always there when I need a hug. Also, the only one who still calls me Emmixedha; no one else is allowed, and neither is he, but I am getting used to it. I hardly take a big decision without consulting him before the rest of the world is informed, and I trust his judgment. I love you, brother!

This one is for you:

To conclude, thanks to Joseph for the linguistic support when I was choosing the name. A lot of what is in this blog has been created with your help or your inspiration, and I am grateful for that.

I know, I have been too romantic until now but the truth is that “I watch romantic movies because I am not romantic myself, and I need to see it on the screen.” No, seriously, I once said that, incredibly enough. Anyway, enough sugary, honey-coated paragraphs, it is time for this hottie to be naughty knotty!

You all know some of my profiles: my Twitter stays one for all, @emmabecciu; my Facebook is private (perfect example of oxymoron,) but I have now created a Facebook page that you can also like and promote; my contacts are all the same, Skype at emma_becciu, phone numbers still working, O2 in the UK and Vodofono in Italy (I can’t say Vodafone anymore, and I couldn’t avoid quoting Gino!) Big change: my preferred email is still, with the associated Google+ profile, but I now have a dedicated business email, also with Google+ profile, of course, and a Google+ page. Please, feel free to browse everything, to share, and comment. You can also check some of my translations at L’Indro, an online newspaper with which I have the pleasure to collaborate.

About Une belle infidèle!, the old posts and pages will stay, and some new ones are going to be published soon, because this belle infidèle may have been quiet, but certainly she didn’t stop being knotty. Sneak peek of some upcoming subjects: Italian presidency of the Council of the EU, sectorial languages, and Italian language in recent history. Also, don’t be afraid of suggesting subjects you would like me to talk about, or you would like to discuss.

And now, let’s be naughty. If any problems, tell Santa I said that!!!

Trick or treat, my Halloween post

I know, you have been missing this Belle infidèle, but it hasn’t been laziness or lack of inspiration what forced me to take a break on the blogging activity. As many of you may have seen from my profiles, I have been busy, and also forced to move houses just during my long waited holidays. You can imagine how hard that can be for a vampire translator, to have to leave the beloved cave, to pack the cute Snoopy pijamas and to go out in broad daylight to find a new den. But here I am, now, after a nice, summery holiday in Sardinia, the best in quite a long time, and in my new flat, thanks to the help of some fellow translators. It is Halloween, and I will soon get ready to celebrate, because I still think that when in Rome… and I don’t see why, on the false pretence that it is disrespectful to my roots, I should lose a chance to have fun and demystify death. Anyway, this is another subject, already treated in previous posts, and I won’t waste more time on it.

As I said, it is 31/10, and what I want to do is to have a look back at my working October, and to try and draw some conclusions out of it. In everyone’s life, there are things for which one waits the whole year, or a great part of it. That said, everyone knows that October means Language Show. For those who don’t know the event, here you have some information about it. I will just say one thing, quoting Capital Translations: “The Language Show Live is the biggest and frankly the best exhibition in Britain for linguists.”

I normally just dedicate one day to it, and try to make the most of it, in terms of networking, new connections and useful information. This year, I had a different plan, because I was aware of the fact that, actually I never had nearly as much as I could out of the show. That is why I was glad when an old friend from USAL and fellow translator wrote me and asked me to join. That was my excuse to try to find as much time as I could to spend at the show.

Despite the rest of engagements I had to respect, we managed to assist to most of the three days, so no complaining. The main difference this year has been the absence of the booths that were normally part of the EU’s stand. They have been missed, but that has helped making those stands more quiet and easy to reach. The venue itself looked less crowded this year, maybe also because there were some stands less, and the space looked bigger that way. Objectively, the organisation seemed a lot better this year, with more information available, starting from the lift.

About the conferences, I had more time to dedicate to them, and I am quite satisfied about the ones I followed. The one Mr Johansson offered about translating for the European Union was just refreshing what we already knew, both the numbers of the EU, and the selection process, but still nice. Ms Campbell, owner of the bilingual quote at the beginning of this blog, gave an interesting and funny speech about interpretation both in the EU and in the formation side; moreover, it was nice to chat with her again, and it made us feel home (that is, in Salamanca) again for a while. Rainy London’s presentation about apps was incredibly interesting and I suggest everyone who is going to Lenguando a la Riojana to take the chance to attend to it, because she is repeating it there.

Of all the speeches I attended to, though, I preferred the one about etymology, maybe because I am one of those crazy people who enjoy investigating the origin of a word, and the related terms. The presentation was fun, and interesting, and it gave some perspective to an Italian/Sardinian native speaker who, in an incredibly self-centred way, always starts this kind of reflections from the “one of my native languages is the closest language to Latin” point of view. Well, it is not that easy, and there is a lot more than that about etymology.

Talking about networking, apart from the Language Show, we had a great early dinner with the TweetUp group, and thanks once again to Valeria for organising it. Anyone who is interested in talking about translation, meet interesting people, and share experiences, please feel free to join, there is one meeting a month.

As I said, I had many questions to ask at the event, and some have been answered, so I hope to have more news about those steps soon. For now, I will leave you celebrating Halloween, and to scare you, I will say that I am working on my business details, and that I still have to talk about the other great event to which I attended this month: The SDL Roadshow, so I will be back soon with more. Is that a trick or a treat?

CV in a foreign language: Dos and Don’ts

Very often, we see posts and articles about horrible CVs, dos and don’ts, and so on. To be honest, I am not sure this is going to be any different, but I will try to make it not just a “let’s laugh about this” example. Instead, I want it to be useful to those who simply think that a CV is a template that one can simply put in Google translate and then use everywhere in the world. There is no denying that I chose this example because it is remarkably funny; nonetheless, it is also a great source of don’ts which can give useful hints to whomever is working on his personal résumé.

Let’s start with something basic: Your CV must be different from the rest to be noticeable, but that doesn’t mean putting a background that looks like a carpet. Please, leave a neutral background. I am for not wasting paper, but printing on both sides doesn’t look good. Especially because your personal description and your CV could fit in one page if you could get rid of all the useless and negative things you added, like in this case (pictures, logo, quote, and so on.) In English, a CV should have a short introduction about the person, what you normally include in a cover letter, but without printing another page; it just needs to be a short paragraph about yourself, to sell your skills without repeating what you will later say on the CV. It is not something used too often Italy, but it has to be included in the UK. In the example I show you, I am not sure what the first page is; it has contact details and pictures, but also the description, so it is a hybrid between a cover letter and a CV, because the real résumé is the second page.

Now, let’s focus on this masterpiece in two pages. I hope my signs and numbers make it easy to spot the points I will analyse. Page 1 offers already a good selection, some of which are repeated, with little variations, in page 2. Incidentally, yes, I am proud of the way I covered the two pictures and, particularly, the logo!


CV1_b1) Desired position. Nonetheless, you misspell it, at least once. I have to tell the truth: it is not that clear it is your dream job, as you will later say.

2) Logo of the school. It is a professional school, not a world-renowned one, not even know on a national level, and you have just studied there so, no matter how cool the logo is, why would you include it?

3) Your picture. It is a typical Italian thing, not shared by the British culture and, in general, by the English-speaking countries, and something very important to take into account when translating a CV. AS it is well known, translation it is never a matter of words only. For a CV, the goal is to be present the person as an integrated part of the population, sharing their culture, and ready to be part of their working force. This one shows all but that; not only one picture, but two, not white ones, but profile pictures Facebook style.

4) A quote?! Apart from the immediate WHY? Also a big don’t for the actual lack of quote: Where is it from? Who said it? What does that mean? Because it really seems like it has been a pedestrian translation again with no real meaning in English.

5) Contact details. Email (hidden by me, of course, as in the case of all the traceable details) is not the same on both pages, and it is worrisome, considering that it is as easy as his name and surname, and he still misspells it. Phone numbers: First, you don’t write “Cell”, which is not British; second, you don’t put the Italian one and then add the British one by hand, you just wait 10 more minutes to print the CVs, until you buy the SIM card. Of course, if you cannot spell your own email address, better to put all your contacts, just in case, but they will hardly call your Italian number anyway.

6) Coffee cocktails. Just coffee cocktails? Maybe you want to expand your range and put a comma between the two.

7) First reaction: What is that? Second reaction: This makes no sense. Third reaction: I look it up. I assume he means “fashion,” but I still am not sure.

8)Potpourri of misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and so on, including 8a and 8b. Important is not to misspell things you are supposed to be an expert on: You cannot write “coffee” in a different way every time. Moreover, how can you not capitalise the pronoun “I”? You are downgrading yourself in an awful way to my eyes!

9) The suspense. What happened after he passed his final exam? Is that his way to have me calling him for an interview? To make me wonder until I can’t resist anymore? Believe me, my life will go on.

10) The end of the road. I know in Italian we use the same word to sat last and latest, but in English, the last bar sounds too decisive, too strong. Baby, life goes on, you will have more bars in your life!

11) English knowledge. I would be careful in stating that, especially if you want to misspell the two words (should be three) immediately after “English,” one of them being exactly “knowledge,” because now I will have my doubts about your “excellent communication skills” of which you brag about in the following line.

12) I know it is up to everyone, but I could certainly think of a couple of ways to express that in a less ambiguous way, and this belle infidèle is not exactly famous for avoiding double entendres!

Now to PAGE 2


1) “Cel.” again? And spelled differently? I start thinking that you try different ways of writing stuff so one will be right. You know what? As I said, in your case, the choice is wrong anyway!

2) A picture again? And a Facebook one again? Don’t you think that two in the previous page were enough?

3) Extra, a whole world in a single word. Do you know what a non-Italian understands reading that? Nothing! When I explained to my colleague what that was, he said: ” That doesn’t exist here.” Exactly, that is typical of an illegal job market that still flourishes in Italy, especially in some sectors. The result obtained by writing that? If the receiver is Italian, as in my case, possibly discomfort for something shameful typical of our culture, or for having to explain that to someone else in the team; if the receiver is not Italian, he is going to discard that experience you are listing as something non relevant.

4) Beverage nervine. What exactly should that be? Because, you know, nervine gas is not exactly my idea of perfect ingredient for a cocktail!

5) Bar. That is commitment to your job, I is not capitalised, but Bar is!

6) Aspiring Bartender. So, are you telling me that you attended to a course to have a qualification as an Aspiring Bartender; not a Bartender, they taught you how to aspire, not how to be one? Am I right?

7) Dimploma. Are you glad that the spelling bee is not something that we do at school in Italy?

8) Scholastic. No doubt, English is scholastic, that is why it is taught, but what you mean is basic, or conversational, which sounds a lot more than in fact it is. I know from my own experience that what we call livello scolastico in Italy is nothing more and nothing less than a blur knowledge of what we should learn but we never learn of the foreign language. Defined by that, your level of English is a little more than my level of Arabic and Chinese. Oh, yes, I never studied Chinese or Arabic, not even for one day.

9) Flair. Again. Now, it is also one of my personal interests: I want to know what it is! And it is all capitalised, so it is his main interest, and no one knows what that means!

10) Music. I have skipping the interest in travelling, because if you ever start working for us, you better learn how to pray in Greek, as we say in Italian, because to have a day off is really hard, I let you imagine what kind of ordeal it is to have holidays to actual travel farther than zone 3 by tube! So, music, interesting… what do you mean? Do you play? Do you compose? Are you a DJ? Do you just press on the Spotify icon on your phone and listen to random stuff that the app adds to your selection because they say so?

I know, I have been really nasty, but it is important to understand that a CV is like a business card, at the beginning we have lame ones, we all make mistakes, and have typos, but we need reduce them to the very minimum, to show that we at least tried to proofread the whole. To ask someone for advice is not a bad idea either, because he can spot stuff that we missed because we read the page too many times. Moreover, don’t forget to adapt it to the job you are applying for, but also to the target culture, to avoid embarrassing details like the picture, especially if it is not professional at all.

Until next time for more tips and sarcasm!

Lenguanding, que es gerundio

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Nostálgica como pocos después de este fin de semana pasado en una pequeña isla española en Londres, me he puesto a escribir este post mientras escucho a Sabina. Para quien no se enteró, acaba de celebrarse el primer Lenguando en Londres; ahora sí, para no enterarse con tantos #Lenguanding llenando el Instagram, el Twitter, el Facebook, el Google+ y todo lo demás, hay que ser un pelín despistados.

Septiembre es el mes de la traducción, y esta ha sido una gran manera de celebrarlo, pero aún quedan más citas. Todo ha empezado, de manera extraoficial, el viernes por la noche, cuando el grupo, más o menos establecido, del LDNTweetUp se ha juntado con los lenguantes que ya estaban en Londres para una cena en Le Pain Quotidien, donde se han juntado cara conocidas, caras que hemos visto tan a menudo en las redes sociales que ya es como si nos conociéramos de verdad, y otras nuevas que, después de tres días lenguando y comiendo, ya son caras de amigos.

Las charlas se han repartido entre el día del sábado y la mañana del domingo, y han sido una mezcla de traducción e interpretación, siempre desde un punto de vista muy práctico y útil. Lo mejor sin duda ha sido la parte virtual, que ha permitido que todos fuéramos unos y trinos, asistiendo a una presentación y siguiendo las otras dos a la vez en Twitter. Voy a hablar de las charlas que seguí yo, pero le agradecería a cualquiera que quisiera si pudiera ampliar este resumen sobre lo que yo tuve que perder. El sábado, hemos empezado con una presentación general sobre la OMI, para luego pasar a las charlas simultáneas. Por el hecho de estar empezando ahora como autónoma, me he centrado más en las presentaciones sobre los aspectos prácticos de la creación del perfil profesional y de su promoción.

El taller de Isabel Santiago sobre el miedo a hablar en público ha sido una manera muy relajada de reflexionar sobre lo que nos bloquea a la hora de enfrentarnos a una audiencia. Durante mis estudios en Salamanca, ya tuve la ocasión de participar en un taller sobre un tema parecido, pero más centrado en las técnicas para conseguir más resultados (proyección y cuidado de la voz, dos and don’ts en el vestir y en la postura, y cosas por el estilo). Esta vez, por otra parte, ha sido más bien un análisis del aspecto psicológico del hablar en público, de las dificultades que podemos encontrar, y de los resultados en nosotros mismos en el caso de que nos enfrentemos a nuestros miedos o de que los evitemos. En realidad, es algo que es útil para cualquier persona que tenga que hablar frente a una audiencia, pero ha sido una serie de reflexiones, y de consejos, muy útiles para quien quiere trabajar como intérprete o profesor, porque el hablar en público es una componente imprescindible de estas profesiones.

Después de la pausa café, hemos vuelto con los secretos de Google+. Tengo que admitir que durante mucho tiempo he tenido el perfil de Google+, así como las demás plataformas de Google, porque vienen con el correo electrónico. Solo hace poco, para dar más espacio a mi blog, y para escribir de pelis, series de televisión y libros incluso cuando no están relacionados con los idiomas (y por eso no tienen cabida en este blog) he empezado a publicar en Google+ también. La verdad es que no lo uso mucho, ni conocía todas las posibilidades que ofrece, y lo que se debe hacer o evitar para que el perfil tenga éxito. Por esta razón, el taller de Alessio Demartis, aunque haya sido muy rápido, y haya intentado abarcar cuanto más en tan poco tiempo, ha sido una buena ocasión para entender cómo sacarle más provecho a una herramienta que puede ofrecer lo mismo que muchas otras plataformas, pero que a lo mejor no conocemos tan bien. Con las pistas que anoté de esta charla, ya tengo deberes para estos días para ir mejorando mi presentación.

Después, Valeria Aliperta nos ha hablado de cómo crear nuestra propia marca, una empresa con un nombre que destaque. De hecho, al descolgar el teléfono en las oficinas del HMRC, una de las primeras preguntas que oímos cuando nos apuntamos como autónomos en el Reino Unido es “¿Cómo quiere llamar su empresa?”, y yo me encontré con que no tenía pensado un nombre, y que no podía improvisar uno ahí mismo, uno que diera juego y me gustara. Considerando que me llevó tres días encontrar un título que fuera tan bonito como ambiguo para este blog, decidí quedarme con mi nombre nada más, hasta encontrar algo que considerara perfecto para mi actividad como traductora e intérprete.El de no precipitarse en la elección fue justo uno de los consejos de Valeria, porque el nombre elegido es algo que nos va a identificar, y a acompañar durante mucho tiempo. Su ejemplo es sin duda uno de los mejores en cuanto a éxito y visibilidad, y sus sugerencias, junto con las de María Ortegón el domingo, han sido muy interesantes para muchos aspectos, incluso para la creación de una página web, que será sin duda el próximo paso para mí.

La pausa para la comida ha sido un momento más para conocernos mejor entre todos mientras comíamos los platos riquísimos preparados por Casa Galicia y disfrutábamos del clima aún templado de Londres. Entre una empanada y una croqueta, hemos estado dándole espacio al networking, al twitting, al facebooking, al fotocalling y a los demás –ings.

La tarde, he querido dedicarla a mi pasión original, la interpretación, con las charlas de Tony Rosado sobre cómo defendernos como intérpretes, el taller de Trinidad Clares sobre interpretación judicial policial y la presentación de María Abad sobre consecutiva. El primero se ha centrado más en lo que puede ser útil en EEUU, pero que se puede aplicar sin dificultades al Reino Unido también, con ejemplos claros y divertidos de experiencias personales. Trini nos ha explicado un poco su trabajo de intérprete en las comisarías, y nos ha presentado un juego de rol para que pudiéramos entender las dificultades, lingüísticas y humanas, a las que se enfrenta quien trabaja en este sector. María, para concluir, nos ha llevado a una de las más temidas, y fascinantes, técnicas de interpretación, la consecutiva; con una breve introducción, y unos ejemplos muy claros, ha recordado a quien, como yo, ya lleva mucho sin trabajar con esta técnica, cuáles son las dificultades mayores, y las trampas más comunes, de este tipo de interpretación.

La cena en Byron ha sido más de lo mismo: buena comida, fotos, charlas e intercambio de experiencias, y mucho cansancio después de un día a tope. El segundo día, si se me permite parafrasear al Gran Wyoming, más pero no mejor, porque era imposible. La presentación de María Ortegón, como ya he dicho, ha dado unas pistas para cómo moverse en el mundo digital, y más consejos sobre lo que está bien hacer, y lo que hay que evitar, a la hora de promocionarse. A esta charla, le ha seguido la de Javi Mallo sobre Quality Assurance, un campo del que conozco muy poco, y al que he querido acercarme para aprender. A veces un poco opaca para una como yo que no conoce bien el tema, la discusión se ha hecho mucho más amena cuando de las descripciones hemos pasado a los ejemplos.

La pausa café en el patio ha traído más sol y más fotos, y ha sido un buen descanso con doble dosis de té para estar lista para la última parte, con la presentación de Antonio Martín sobre cómo crear macros en Word, una charla muy práctica e interesante que puede hacernos ahorrar mucho tiempo, y evitar lanzar el ordenador contra la pared, tentación que, de nada sirve negarlo, tenemos todos, y es superada solo por el deseo de hacer lo mismo con el móvil. A Xosé Castro le ha tocado cerrar Lenguanding con una charla sobre los errores y los calcos en las traducciones desde el inglés, y nos hemos echado unas buenas risas con los ejemplos y las anécdotas.

Besos y despedidas, e intercambio de tarjetas de visita con quienes se iban, y rumbo al The Castle para los que nos hemos apuntado a todo, comida de despedida incluida. Entre un “esto no sé qué es, pero lo voy a probar”, y un “a ver si queda más de esto otro que estaba bueno”, también se ha acabado esta experiencia maravillosa, y todos seguimos compartiendo ideas y fotos, esperando poder repetir muy pronto. ¿Cuántos tienen pensado ir al de La Rioja? Una servidora ya va moviendo hilos e intentando sobornar a los compañeros de trabajo para que le den días libres: fingers crossed! Mientras tanto, aquí dejo unos enlaces, que ya he compartido en Twitter, y donde se pueden encontrar fotos, tweets y opiniones sobre Lenguanding. Solo quiero añadir una cosa: mis agradecimientos a los organizadores y oradores para habernos facilitado estos dos días de diversión y aprendizaje.

Fotos en:

Tweets en:

Más posts y otras informaciones en:

Cheap is not chic: Translators and interpreters do it better, hire them instead!


I am so mad today, that I cannot avoid writing a nasty post. I don’t know how bad mood works, but apparently makes you find angry complaining articles by chance when scrolling down updates on your profiles. Today, two articles inspired me: the first one is about bigotry in interpretation, and the second one is about clients’ requests to lower our tariffs. Now, here are some of my experiences.

I have told some stories already in my posts, but I want now to talk about the disturbing responses that I received to my tariffs or to my offers of service. I have to admit, even if it is something hardly to brag about, that I have a relevant number of bad experiences compared to the actual working experience.

My last interpretation was, quoting myself, “a lot of fun, but an awful experience interpreting-wise.” The fact that I was expecting something of that kind didn’t make it any easier, because the whole managed to exceed my expectations. I hoped for one of the parties to be used to interpreters, but I did a pre-session anyway, explaining to both that I was the interpreter, and that I was going to translate verbally what they were saying, and that they had to talk as if I were not there. Considering the fact that my client was in fact a group of Italian speaking people, and the English speaker only one, I opted for chuchotage in English, and short consecutive in Italian. I also explained that clearly to them. It was not working, the Italian party kept stopping in Italian even if I had no need for that, and the English one was not letting me finish interpreting into Italian what he said, correcting what I was expressing, and rephrasing, even if he had no idea of Italian whatsoever. Exasperated by that, I opted for the short consecutive in both directions, trying to forget that they could not shut up at all at any point.

Not happy with that, my client started being sarcastic and saying to me: “But you don’t need to translate this!” I was starting being really upset. Then, we all found out that the whole meeting was based in a huge misunderstanding caused by a third part, and they started trying to fix that before the deal was over. The problem was that no one was listening: both parties were talking incessantly without listening to each other. After being completely stuck for a whole afternoon, they started asking me: “Do you understand what is happening? Can you explain him/them?” Are you kidding me? Of course I do understand, and you would also, if you would listen; and no, I don’t explain, I translate. Either you say what you want to be understood, or it is not going to come out from my mouth! I was so mad after an afternoon like that; I was exhausted, and that is not what happens during the interpretation, not when the adrenaline is flowing. I had to step out from my role, and I still hate myself for that, and say: “If I may, and this is not my role, but I am stepping in because we are stuck, I want to say that this is what is happening, and that there is a misunderstanding that is not being solved. This is the question.”

For three days, I had to repeat that I was not part of the company, that I had no interest in the deal, and that I was not going to be following the subsequent steps. That was of no concern for the English part, who kept including me in the deal, and giving me tasks, that I had to promptly refuse, repeating myself over and over. For my personal interest, I offered to redact in English a short text that was to be added to the conclusive work. Maybe that was my mistake, or maybe no one cared about what I kept saying, but I kept receiving emails about the agreements when I went back to London. Exasperated by that, and simply ballistic because of the latest email asking what was going on with the communications, and if I was translating all the emails for the company, I sent an email saying that, once again, I wanted to make clear that I was not, in any way, part of the company, that I had been hired for three days, and that I had no further commitment with them, apart from the text that I offered to write. Meanwhile, of course, my invoice reached the client, who forgot that he was able to save the deal thanks to my presence, and who looked upset and said that for the next meeting he would have possibly used an acquaintance who was able to speak English because she was working in a resort!

Of course, I am not surprised, I had other similar experiences before. I keep telling the story of the cousin, a story that I will now share with you. I had just finished my studies, and I was back to Sardinia with my fresh degree. Actually, we were two, because the guy I was dating back then was also an interpreter, and we had both been called for what seemed to be a huge project. The client’s exact words were: “It is a huge project that can bring us millions of Euros, and we don’t want to mess up!” That sounded amazing, until he added: “Of course, my niece has been 3 months in Barcelona with an Erasmus grant, and I could ask her, but I don’t want to look less than the Spanish guys, they are going to bring an interpreter!” We should have just stood up and left, but we were young and we wanted to know more. We started listening in details to what the project was going to involve for us. It was about the construction of a huge installation of solar panels, and the client said that he was going to need one person to stay in the office to do the paperwork, answer the emails, and translate the contracts (of course that was going to be me, the woman!) Then, the second person had to be in the field, with the engineers, to interpret, and that was going to be my boyfriend, because they were not going to send a woman in the countryside with all those men. I was already offended by that misogynistic vision of the world and the profession, also because they had no way to know that the Spanish engineers were not going to be women. In fact, I know first‑hand that two great experts on solar power in Sardinia are women, so that was a simplistic and retrograde vision of the working world.

To this offensive presentation, the person also added that, of course, we could receive text messages and emails at any time of the day and the night that we had to translate immediately. Keeping all that in mind, he wanted us to give him a forfeit. We were astonished, we had no idea for how long that could be, one, two, or three month, he said, and it was supposed to be 24/7, with car and fuel to travel to the different sites paid by us, and he wanted a forfeit! Fair enough, I contacted my professors to know what to do; after considering everything, we sent him a detailed budget with different options, for hours or days, for weeks, and for months, depending on what the agreement was going to be. The response we received was: “Dear X and Y, We cannot afford your rates.” I thought it was a project for millions of Euros… You can imagine my amusement when, a month later, talking to the person who introduced me to this possible client, I found out that he didn’t obtain the job in the first place; I guess he and the cousin were cheap enough to mess up!

What could I add to this? A quick quote from the email I received from a translation agency: “Dear Emma, we are interested in your CV, but your rates are higher than those we usually pay. Could you kindly lower them and fill the form again?” This, of course, is what I would have loved to answer: “Dear whomever you are, I am not interested in your shit, could you please raise your fees and pay translators a decent price for their work?” Instead, I expressed my rage in an angry tweet and just kept going my way.

I had a lot of training, and I have finished my studies some years ago now, but I keep struggling finding translating and interpreting jobs. Partly it is my fault, but a huge part is also because of the market. Colleagues are a breath of fresh air, always ready to help and share tips; to find private clients is difficult; and agencies are a mixed bag, and there is a lot to skim before we find our good ones.

My rage is not all gone today, but I feel a lot better now that this is published! This post is dedicated to Cristina and Deividas, thank you both for what you said about my blog in these days. Also, I would like to thank Scheherezade Surià, who was so kind to allow me to use one of her delightful pin-ups to add the icing on the cake of this post, and who always share something funny and punny.

DipTrans and MITI exams: side by side

An interesting view that can be very helpful in choosing the right exam, if a choice has to be made. Trying to make up my mind now!

Signs & Symptoms of Translation

DipTrans and MITI examsIn January this year I took the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) set by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the MITI exam to become a qualified member of the Institute of Translating & Interpreting. This post is an account of my experience of the two exams.

Why did I take these exams?

My path into translation came from a career switch from nursing. I completed a one-year course on translation in Madrid when I made the change, but I didn’t have a formal translation qualification as such. This hasn’t been a problem when marketing my services; most new clients are more interested in my medical background and years of experience. But I felt ready for a new challenge and so in 2012 I decided to make the DipTrans my goal. At the same time, I’d been looking at becoming a member of the ITI for some time because qualified…

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