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To run a freelance translation business, you need to be a great translator in the first place. To make a difference in the world, you want to become a passionate translation entrepreneur.

Calling all translation entrepreneurs! Free resources:

Lesson 140: All 139 lessons in one free ebook

After four years of blogging and just under three years in the current form of lessons, I decided to put together a publication containing all 139 lessons published here on the blog.

The ebook version was suggested some time ago by a couple of colleagues. I liked the idea, and I knew it may be easier to access it in this format, since you don’t need to be online to read the contents. Plus there may be articles that can get easily missed while scrolling on the blog. It took me a bit of time, but the publication is now available.

You can access it by subscribing to my blog, and it’s as easy as leaving your details below. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the publication!

At the same time, I wanted to let you know that I won’t be blogging on a regular basis anymore. Over the years, I’ve shared a wealth of information on this blog and I’m excited about other avenues and opportunities to contribute to the translation profession. Stay tuned in!


Lesson 139: What can a professional translator learn from translation students?

If you think that I nearly became a teacher, some of the elements of my career may make more sense. I present or blog because there must be a bit of a teacher in me. This is also the reason why I called my blog and course the Business School for Translators. So when a couple of years ago I was offered the opportunity to teach a handful of translation and interpreting students, it was a challenge I definitely saw myself stepping up to. With my background as a professional, I also believed I could bring the much sought-after practical insights into the profession to the classroom. Of course I knew I would learn a lot myself in the process, but reflecting on this experience a few days ago, I was surprised by how much a professional translator can learn from teaching the craft to others.

Teaching just an odd hour or two on average, I had to rejig my professional life quite a lot. First of all, committing to being in one place at the same time every week, even if only in the late afternoon, turned out to be quite a challenge for a freelancer. Second, I got to experience the dreaded commute. And of course, I was faced with the amount of admin work that my freelance experience can’t really compare to. So what did I learn?

1. Translation is a rational decision-making process

And if it isn’t for you yet, teaching will force you to be much more organised and thorough in your processes. You know, telling your students “it has to be this solution because it just sounds better” doesn’t quite cut it. Time and time again, I had to justify my decisions and rationalise my choices. And believe me, it’s useful, only if to coherently explain to clients why this way of translating is better than what their internal editor suggested.

2. Translation research is useful

Not that I didn’t know that before, having done my BA in translation, but revisiting translation theories and progress in translation research now, with a bit of experience under my belt, I appreciated the academic side of our profession even more. Reading academic articles may not be your favourite, but there’s actually a fair bit of insights and solutions to a range of problems that the academics have looked at. While this won’t eradicate the divide between the academia and industry, I can heartily recommend looking into academic publications on translation and interpreting.

3. Success in translation is ultimately about the skill

Students like asking what to do to be successful. I thought to myself that if I ever get asked this question, I have a wealth of resources to point students to, and that I know which skills to emphasise. But when it got to it, I surprised myself a bit telling my students that to be a successful translator or interpreter they have to practise at least 250 words, a 5-minute speech, even 20-30 minutes a day. This is an important lesson for professional translators as well. It’s easy to think that we all need to spice up our websites, get better at business skills, or go to a yet another conference. Truth be told, honing our core skills should always come first.

4. Despite what they say, translation is alive and kicking

Professional translators seem to be often surrounded by gloomy ideas about the future of the profession and prophecies of impending doom. If you hear it one time too many, you may just start believing it. There’s no better antidote than being around a group of translation or interpreting students. They’re enthusiastic, gifted, passionate. They find jobs, they get their careers off the ground, they carve their niches, as if the translation industry was far from extinction. Perhaps this unspoiled attitude is also something professional translators could take away and adopt.

5. Professional translators have more responsibility than they think

Perhaps the most important conclusion from my teaching experience is that professional translators hold a lot of responsibility over the profession as a whole. Students’ experiences are shaped by encounters with professionalism and skill. It’s not only about meeting and greeting them at professional events or sharing tips, but also displaying excellent quality of work. Showing your own work to anyone may make you feel exposed and examined, and this also holds true when you present your own translations or interpreting skills to a group of ever-questioning students. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it also makes you look at your own work with a more critical eye.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that those who can, do, those who can’t, teach. Give teaching – in any form – a try, and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. I’d like to think that perhaps those who can, do, those who can’t teach, find it harder to do.

Anything you’ve learned while trying to explain translation?

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