Corpus analysis techniques

As I mentioned in a blog earlier this year, one of my projects for 2016 is to develop my skill set in corpus analysis, intending to use this to develop my translation skills and also to build terminology bases and to identify the grammatical characteristics of the language used in my specialist areas.

In this blog I want to go into more detail about different analyses that can be performed using corpus tools and what they can show us. For this post I used a corpus that I built for a recent translation assignment, using the WebBootCat feature, which I described in a previous post.

Today I will introduce another corpus analysis tool, AntConc, developed by Laurence Anthony. It is open source and can be freely downloaded, along with other related tools.

Building the corpus

As I explained in my earlier post, I used the WebBootCat function to create this ad hoc corpus. To do this you need to access SketchEngine. This is the process I use:

  • Select seed words using terms/words that are used in the target subject area (for example, in this case: subsidies, FIT, premiums, installed, capacity, margin, power, etc.).
  • WebBootCat trawls the internet and produces a list of different URLs that match the search criteria.
  • Check the data that came through to remove any sources that may not be reliable.

If you do not have a subscription to SketchEngine, you can create your own corpus using documents you have selected yourself. To use these in AntConc, they must all be in text file (.txt) format in UTF8 (check out the AntFile Converter to convert).

Below are the basic types of analysis that you can perform using AntConc (and corpus tools in general). For more information on how to use these features in the AntConc tool, please refer to Laurence Anthony’s website, where there are a number of tutorials available.

Word lists

It produces a list of all the words included in the corpus, ordered by frequency. While this can be useful, often it is used as a basis for other analyses. You will find when you create word lists that prepositions and articles often come at the top of the list before any nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Keyword lists

Here you have to load a word list of your choice (in this case the British National Corpus word list). This function then creates a list of keywords that are comparatively more frequent in the corpus being analysed. Another example of where this might be useful is if you want to compare vocabulary used in two different genres, or different registers within a genre.

In my case, I created an adhoc corpus from seed words, so there is some bias to these words. However, I was looking for the usage of these specific terms for the translation I was doing, so it is not a problem. However, it is worth being aware of this in case you are interested in building a corpus for other research purposes.

As you can see, some of the seed words are up in the most comparatively frequent words, but there are also other words that are unusually frequent in the corpus, which can give us insight into the use of vocabulary in a certain area, and can give indications of collocations and clusters to look at.

Collocations, clusters and N-grams

N-grams/Clusters

N-grams demonstrate the frequency of two-, three- or four-word clusters in a text. This can help to identify possible multiword expressions (MWE), as well as common grammatical formations. In translation, for example, if you are looking for a possible term in a target language, but you are not necessarily sure of the correct translation, this might be a good place to look. It can also help you to identify grammatical patterns. Contrary to collocations, n-grams are shown without context, but give frequency as a number (see second column below). If you have been looking for suitable terms, once you identify a possible term you may want to then use the collocation function to look at it in context.

Collocations

This feature looks at usage of a specific word in context, and can be used to identify common collocations of words, either to identify multiword elements or also grammatical collocations such as verb-noun collocations, or adjective-noun collocations, verb-preposition collocations, etc.

Example of how these analyses work

For the purposes of this post I am going to look at the use of the word ‘margin’. When you search for collocations, you can search aligning to the right or the left, up to three places each side. With a noun such as ‘margin’, if you are looking for common noun collocations, it is likely a good idea to search left – if you want to see verb-use patterns, then search right.

Margin – 481 hits

  • Common collocations

Capacity margin

Definition (The capacity margin is difference between capacity and peak load, expressed as a percentage of capacity (instead of peak load).

This was a term that formed part of the seed words for compiling the glossary, but the frequency and also spread of its use added to its viability. A number of variations of this term came up, but also different terms, such as:

Reserve margin

Definition (The reserve margin is the difference between generating capacity and peak load expressed as a percentage of peak load).

As you can see, the collocation tool allows you to not only identify and see the context in which certain phrases/terms are used, but also potentially identify other terms, and determine whether these terms are used in specific companies, or specific contexts. I had not used the term ‘reserve margin’ in my seed words, as it was not a term that had come up in my translation. However, it did come up in the corpus. When I first saw this term I was unsure if it was a synonym of capacity margin, given the context in which I found both terms used. However, from further research I found out that they are two ways of referring to the same thing, but expressed using different criteria (as can be seen in the definitions).

Another use of the collocation tool is to see which verbs are commonly used with the terms you are searching for – as you can see in the screenshot, the verbs ‘provide’, ‘meet’ and ‘retain’ seem to be common collocations with the term ‘capacity margin’. This can be useful when translating as the verb used in the source language does not always directly correspond with the use in the target language. This tool can also be used to see typical tenses used in certain contexts, which is another area in which there are often differences between source and target texts.

Concordance plotter

Concordance plotters show where in the corpus terms appear. I decided to contrast the use of ‘reserve margin’ with ‘capacity margin’. This works better if each file is separate as you can see in which files the term appears, but even so it will give you an idea if a term is specific to one file or is used generally.

“Reserve margin”

“Capacity margin”

I hope this brief introduction to different analytical features will have given you some insight into the different ways in which corpus tools can help you in your translations and other language work.

Advertisements

Séminaire d’Anglais Médical 2016: a review

By Claire Harmer

This March I attended my first Séminaire d’Anglais Médical (SAM) held in the beautiful city of Lyon. It was the 11th time the event had been held, which is organised by the Société Française des Traducteurs (SFT) every two years. The séminaire – which I’ll call a conference for the sake of convenience, but was more of a week-long workshop programme – is aimed at medical translators working from and into French. 49 people attended; the perfect size for a specialised conference: not so big that it was overwhelming but big enough to have lots of different people to talk to.

It took place in the Faculté de Médecine Lyon Est in a self-contained Médiathèque building and most of the sessions were held in a raked lecture theatre within the building. The university was in the 8th arrondissement, so not particularly central, but it was only 15-20 minutes away by tram/metro if you were staying in the centre. With fairly packed days at the conference I didn’t get to explore the city as much as I would have liked, but I’m hoping to go back for a trip later this year.

The days were well-structured, with half-hour coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon (which proved to be good networking opportunities), and a one and a half hour lunch break in the middle. At first I thought the lunch break was unnecessarily long but while I was there I realised you needed that time to disconnect and have a rest! Sitting and listening to lectures for five days straight made me realise that I am out of the habit of sitting and absorbing information for long periods of time like we did at university – so having those breaks was crucial! Even more so, considering that most of the workshops were given in French, so I had to concentrate even harder to absorb and process the information.

The programme was a mix of lectures, terminology sessions and travaux dirigés, all of which I’m going to give a bit more information on below – I hope this gives readers an insight in case anyone is interested in attending SAM 2018!

Lectures

We were fortunate to have a wide variety of speakers present at the conference, from medical translators to doctors, medical researchers and founders of companies within the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

Below are a few of the highlights from the conference:

  • Amy Whereat’s presentation on writing practices in the field of cosmetic dermatology
  • Dr David Cox’s presentation on the medical epidemiology of breast cancer
  • Sylvie Chabaud’s talk on the statistical aspects of a clinical trial
  • Dr Bernard Croisile’s presentation on Alzheimer’s disease.

Another firm favourite was Pippa Sandford’s presentation on cross-cultural differences and pitfalls in medical translation. I’m hoping to do a blog post on Pippa’s talk at some point soon, as I found it really useful and think other medical translators will too.

Terminology sessions

We had four terminology sessions where medical translator and terminologist Nathalie Renevier went over terms that had come up in the workshops. These were great for exploring tricky terms and their corresponding equivalents in the other language. It also meant we revisited topics spoken about earlier in the day or week, which served as a reminder of what we had learnt.

Travaux dirigés

The source texts for the travaux dirigés were sent out via email in advance for those who had time to read them and on Monday we were split up into groups of five to seven people, each of which was given one source text. We had two sessions on Monday where we had time to work on the text as a group and typed up our final translation to present to the rest of the attendees later in the week. The texts included a study on patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, a fact sheet on Alzheimer’s disease for the general public, an article on premenstrual flares in adult women, as well as texts on chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, H5N1 influenza virus and the digestive system.

When the final translations were presented, a supervisor who had done a presentation on the same or a similar topic during the week, gave suggestions and advice to the translation team where needed. To be honest, I think the travaux dirigés were the only part of the conference where I felt I missed out a little by being an English native speaker. Of the 49 attendees only seven were English native speakers, with almost all of the remaining attendees being French native speakers – only to be expected as the course was held in France! This meant that only one out of the seven translations presented was a FR>EN translation (which was presented by our group). It was still useful to see how the English texts had been rendered in French, but obviously I didn’t take as much away from them as I did the FR>EN translation.

Traduel

To end the conference with a bit of fun, Stephen Schwanbeck organised a translation duel, which proved to be very entertaining! Two people volunteered to translate each text (one was FR>EN and the other was EN>FR) in advance and then each translator presented their version, moving in turn and presenting a couple of sentences at a time. The rest of the attendees joined in with suggestions on how to improve the translations, as well as highlighting what they liked about each of them.

Both pieces were satirical, so were quite a departure from the texts we had been working on during the week. They were full of cultural references, plays on words, and tricky phrasing. The English text for translation into French, entitled ‘Doctors say average heart attack victim doesn’t clutch at chest nearly dramatically enough’ can be found here. It’s well worth watching the video as well as reading the article! The French text for translation into English, ‘La téléphonie mobile, nouveau vecteur de la democratisation du cancer’, can be found here.

In addition to the 9am – 5pm programme, the organisers also arranged a pre-conference meet-up on the Sunday evening, a tour of Lyon on the Monday night and a three course meal at a lovely restaurant during the week, all of which were thoroughly enjoyed.

In conclusion, I learnt a great deal about a wide range of medical and pharmaceutical subjects at SAM, met lots of interesting people, learnt about others’ experiences of translating for the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, experiences of working with agencies and direct clients (a conversation that seemed to come up a lot!) and how to cope with various terminological issues that often come up in medical and pharmaceutical translation.

The conference was a huge success and I’ll definitely be going back in 2018, if not before, as I’d like to visit Lyon again! A huge thank you to all the organisers!

hh

Lyon at night!

jj

The FR>EN team presenting their translation

Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce

www.ccfgb.co.uk (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that www.meetup.com has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!

R73C0282

The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

Using corpora in translation

by Sandra Young

With the beginning of a new year come new ideas, challenges and resolutions. For the first blog of 2016 I wanted to invite you to explore what I consider to be an invaluable tool for our work as translators, particularly when working in technical fields with very specific terminology. One of my professional resolutions for the year is to succeed in fully harnessing the benefits of corpora for my work.

Corpus: “A collection of written or spoken material in machine-readable form, assembled for the purpose of linguistic research.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

I first came across corpora in a professional sense when working on a dictionary project with the Oxford University Press (OUP). The examples for each sense (the different meanings of a single word in specific contexts) in the dictionary entries (the collection of these senses under one headword) had been extracted from a European and Brazilian Portuguese corpus, purpose-created by the OUP. To search this corpus the translation team had access to an online corpus building and mining tool called Sketch Engine.  We used this tool to find entry words and phrases in context, search for additional or more appropriate examples for senses of words and suggest further meanings, which was essential to producing appropriate translations. Words without context have no meaning at all, any choices of translation without this would be arbitrary.

On the target language side, we could also use the British National Corpus (BNC) to search for examples of our suggested translations in context and to cross-check against contexts and usage in the original language, in this case Portuguese. This made us confident that our choice of translation was fit for purpose.

Throughout the two-year dictionary project I found working with corpora not only useful, but fascinating. With very little effort you can produce lists of in-context words or collocations that appear in your conglomeration of text (which is about 100 million words in the case of the BNC), facilitating the quick analysis of information. For the dictionary project I used corpora to check the usage of specific words in context to be able to make informed decisions on the correct translation of said words, their most common grammatical forms and common collocations; however corpora can be used for many other purposes too.

When the dictionary project drew to a close, I continued to dabble with corpora in my work, but for some time I failed to follow a clear path. I started a MOOC course on Corpus Linguistics but, as with many free courses, I found it difficult to juggle both work and study and work won out. This course, run by Lancaster University, is of particular use to researchers, so there are elements that may not be directly applicable to our day-to-day work as translators.

However, last year at the MedTranslate Conference in Freiburg, I attended Anne Murray’s talk on corpus building and mining. In the talk, Anne took us through the steps to building our own corpora within Sketch Engine. It is a subscription-based tool costing £78/year, with a discount for MET members. The tool allows you to search existing official corpora, from Arabic to Yoruba, as well as building your own corpora up to a total capacity of one million words.

There are two main ways to build your own corpora within Sketch Engine. The first is WebBootCat, in which you input specific search terms that the program uses to dredge the internet for matching websites and files. The other option is to upload specific documents you have found (and vetted for reliability) and compile a corpus from them. The table below outlines the main tendencies of each.

WebBootCat File-based corpus
Quick to build Slow to build
Less reliable content More reliable content
Reliant on usage of appropriate and thorough search criteria Based on the assumption that with hand-picked documents you will have had more time to refine the search criteria and collate a sound base of information

As WebBootCat automatically dredges the internet, you gain quick access to a lot of information but you have less control over the content, so it can be assumed to be less reliable on the whole, as it is more difficult to check the quality of the information. You can vet the websites included in the final corpus to exclude any outliers, but this will not ensure same the quality as hand-picked material.

If you work from a file-based corpus, it will be considerably more time-consuming as you will have to search for and check each and every document for reliability and appropriateness before compiling (e.g. native author, correct spelling variation if required, correct subject matter and register). However, once you have built the corpus, you can be confident that the information within it is reliable.

Despite this, with Sketch Engine you should always be able to go back to the original text of each entry, which can help you to make a judgement on the reliability of the results produced whether using WebBootCat or your own file-based corpus. Also, as you can see, both styles offer viable options for different situations. Often we do not have the time to produce a specific, well-researched corpus for every single job we have.

How do I use corpora now?

I usually use corpora to analyse the usage of terms in the target language text, for correct translations of unfamiliar terms. Corpora are also very useful for familiarising yourself with a specific style of writing, or with common collocations in a specific subject area. In case you miss these on our twitter feed, here are some other blogs on corpora that you may find useful:

https://karenrueckert.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/part-5-corpora-and-parallel-texts/

http://jaltranslation.com/2014/04/21/using-corpora-in-your-translation-work/

I often use WebBootCat for efficiency, but recently I had 35 thousand words of pharmaceutical regulatory reports to translate. It was a sizeable job, so I decided to compile my own file-based corpus on this subject. Given the subject matter, it was relatively easy to find official, reliable documents as the FDA publishes a great deal of food and drug product guidance, compliance and regulatory information. I selected documents and compiled a corpus in Sketch Engine.

As a result of the corpus, I was confident in my choice of vocabulary as I could see clear evidence of how terminology and collocations were used in verifiable English texts, and I could see how sentences were structured around these terms to mimic the style of the official texts. Also, if the client were ever to query my use of certain terms, I would be able use results from the corpus to provide evidence to support my choices.

There are many other corpus building and analysis tools out there. I use Sketch Engine for its ease of use (you can upload documents in a variety of formats, the interface is very user-friendly, I already knew how to use the tool, etc.), but you do have to pay for it. In a later post I will go into detail about AntConc, Laurence Anthony’s free corpus tool. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool which I aim to master this year and further develop my corpus techniques. I attended his workshop at the MET Conference in Coimbra at the end of last year and in addition to the corpus analysis tool there are a number of other interesting tools he has developed that may be of use to translators. For those of you who are interested, the corpus linguistics course by FutureLearn uses AntConc, so you could learn to use the tool that way.

Do you use corpora? If so, what do you use them for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of corpora?

Thanks for reading and happy 2016! I wish you all a great year.

 

 

TIME MANAGEMENT FOR TRANSLATORS

by Claire Harmer

For translators, time management can be a difficult task, particularly when we have large projects on the go. A few weeks ago I delivered a large (20,000 word) translation which left me feeling overwhelmed and overworked, so I decided to do some research on time management for translators. I’m hoping that I can use this research to implement some rules for myself and learn to manage my time better in the future.

One particularly helpful resource I came across was one of Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcasts: ‘Simple time management tips for translators’, in which she interviews David Rumsey of North Country Translations. You can listen to the podcast at bit.ly/1duIlef.

Some things I learned about time management while I was researching:

Smart phone tips

For most of us, our smart phones mean we can respond to queries or project enquiries when we’re out of the office, which is great, but it also means that clients can contact you at any time of the day or night! If you work with clients across several time zones, this can be particularly difficult as some may assume that you have read their message even if there is a nine or ten hour time difference.

  • I normally leave my phone on silent when I’m working so I don’t get distracted by instant messages, texts and phone calls… basically anything that’s not translation-related.
  • I tend to leave my email open while I work so that I can see when a new message comes in. However, I’m thinking about changing this and only checking it on the hour or every 2 hours instead. This means I won’t be as responsive, but I believe it will be more conducive to work. Does anyone else manage their email in a similar way?

Business hours

In Tess’s podcast, David Rumsey explains that many translators don’t feel like they can stick to pre-fixed business hours because they’re worried that if they don’t respond to every single email, LinkedIn request, Skype message, etc., that people will go elsewhere and they will therefore lose clients. He maintains that it’s important to set out what it is you want to achieve and how you want to work, and stick to this.

I completely agree with this and often wonder ‘how are my clients going to respect my working hours if I don’t respect them myself?!’

Further to David’s suggestion, I’m thinking about telling my clients that I’m trying to stick as closely as possible to my scheduled work hours, as well as setting an out of office auto-responder for non-work hours (i.e. any time that’s not 9am-6pm).

Does anyone do this already? Has this change been well-received by your clients?

Inundated with emails?

If you open your email after the weekend and have tens (or even hundreds!) of emails waiting for you, it can take hours to sort through them, which can prevent you from getting your actual paid work done!

Here are some key things you can do to reduce so-called ‘email stress’:

  • Create subfolders in your inbox and sort your emails into these folders so there’s not a long list of them staring at you! You can programme most email applications to do this for you automatically, which I only found out recently. If you use Gmail, this link shows you how to use messages to create filters: bit.ly/1rMougX
  • Send short, concise messages. If your email message is longer than 2 paragraphs long, perhaps it would be easier and less time-consuming to call the person instead? A phone call might even be more effective, as many people don’t read lengthy emails anyway (and if they do, they often skim read them)!
  • ‘If you want to receive less email, send less email’. David mentions that we should think about who the message really needs to go to before we send it. Don’t copy people in to emails unless they really need to be copied in, because you’ll probably get responses from everyone, which means more messages for you to read!
  • Create email templates for responses you end up writing a lot, for example you could have a ‘thank you for your enquiry, I am currently booked up until [insert date]’ template, or a template for responding to questions about rates, Trados discounts, etc.
  • Unsubscribe from emails you never read. I have subscribed to a huge number of websites over the years, so this week I’m planning to get to grips with the email management tool Unroll.me and assess which ones I still want to hear from. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Planning your work for the week

This tip is from David via Tess’s podcast and I’m going to do my best to implement it in my own work schedule!

Take time out, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour at the start of the week, to create a to-do list, and organise it into the following categories:

  • things you have to accomplish this week,
  • things you want to accomplish this week,
  • and things you would like to accomplish this week.

Focus on the have to list first, and don’t move on to the want to list or would like to list until the first list has been completed. If you stick to this system, you can free yourself of the biggest tasks first, leaving less urgent and therefore less stressful tasks for later. Try to keep the have to list to a minimum: it needs to be achievable and not overwhelming!

Procrastinating

  • If you take on work that you actually enjoy doing, you’ll procrastinate less. So if you like working in a particular area or for a particular client, seek that kind of work out, rather than taking on everything that lands in your inbox.
  • Identify what time of the day you’re most productive and schedule your work accordingly. Some people are early birds and some are night owls. I’m still trying to figure out which one I am… it seems to vary depending on the weather!
  • The following idea was mentioned during Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators, and is particularly good for when random things pop into my head when I’m working and I think ‘oh yes, I need to do that!’ but the actual task isn’t work-related. Whenever something like this tries to invade my translation space, I jot it down on a post it and put it in a box in the far corner of my desk. That way it’s out of sight so it doesn’t distract me from my work, and the worry of forgetting about it altogether goes away. I check the box at the end of the week if I have time and go through everything. Before using this method I honestly used to spend about an hour a day procrastinating on these tiny things. Thanks for the tip, Marta!

Some apps that might help

Pomodoro – Sandra, a fellow blogger at The Deep End, introduced me to this tool and it has been a huge help, particularly when I’m working on large translation projects. It breaks your work time into manageable 25-minute chunks and ensures that you take regular 5-minute breaks after each one, followed by a longer 20-minute break after you’ve completed four 25-minute chunks. You can buy the timer or invest in a Pomodoro course at the official website, but so far I’ve just used one of the free online versions.

Wunderlist – Personally, I prefer a good old-fashioned paper list, but Wunderlist is great for people who love apps and have various different to-do lists.

Toggl – A useful tool for recording how much time you spend on different tasks.

Trello – Helps you to manage projects easily. For each project you can create tasks and sort these into categories: ‘ideas’, ‘to do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’!

What about you? Can you recommend any time management techniques that have helped you to become more productive? If you have any, please share them in the comments section below to help us all avoid ending up like this…

The Entrepreneurial Linguist and meeting direct clients

By Claire Harmer

In October 2013 I attended a workshop organised by the ITI’s London Regional Group entitled ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’. The workshop was given by Judy Jenner, who was a truly inspirational speaker. Together, Judy and Dagmar Jenner make up Twin Translations, a boutique translation business which operates from Las Vegas and Vienna, where Judy and Dagmar respectively live.

I bought Judy and Dagmar’s book, The Entrepreneurial Linguist, just after attending the workshop in 2013 and have found it to be an invaluable asset since I started my freelance career in 2012. It provided me with encouragement and motivation during the difficult times (both financially and in terms of morale) when I had not long started my business and it was taking a while for things to get off the ground.

In this blog post I would like to share with you how the twins’ book gave me the confidence to go to trade shows and talk to prospective clients – something I would normally have struggled with and shied away from. I learnt a huge amount from The Entrepreneurial Linguist and from the workshop Judy gave, and hope to summarise some of the things I’ve found most useful when marketing my business to direct clients. These tips only cover a few pages of their ‘Business Development’ chapter, and this post focuses on what they call the ‘trade show strategy’, just one of the five client acquisition strategies Judy and Dagmar discuss in their book.

  • Research the vendors

‘It is not very time effective to simply go to the [trade] show, wander around, and approach random booths. It will not make you look very professional, and it is not the best use of your time’[1]. I booked to go to a trade show in Paris earlier this year and unfortunately, due to work commitments, didn’t have any time to research the vendors beforehand. I still went along as I didn’t want the ticket to go to waste (plus I’d already booked my flights and accommodation!), but I didn’t have the confidence to speak to the people I wanted to since I didn’t know enough about the companies. The trip wasn’t wasted, as I still met some interesting people and managed to fit in some sightseeing (!), but I now know just how important it is to make time for research beforehand!

  • ‘Pre-qualified contacts’

For companies you’re hoping to make contact with at the show, try to get in touch with their marketing director or communications manager via LinkedIn before you attend. Judy and Dagmar mention that ‘if you have a contact in common, the person you are trying to reach will be much more inclined to talk to you’, so look out for 2nd connections on LinkedIn! The twins suggest that if you don’t have a contact in common, you can always try emailing the person, but the chances of you getting business this way are much lower.

How do I start the conversation?

  • Judy and Dagmar recommend checking whether the company you’re targeting is speaking at a session during the trade show. Perhaps this is something you can open up a conversation with? If you’ve contacted them beforehand, open up with that as a way of introducing yourself in person and thank them for replying to you if they did so.

Anyone for tea?

  • Another thing the twins suggest is taking vendors with whom you’ve already made appointments a snack or a tea/coffee. It’s a nice gesture when vendors are too busy to leave the stand or haven’t had a break in a while! In her workshop, Judy pointed out that sometimes vendors can’t actually leave the conference centres during their breaks, and since the food served at these centres isn’t always great, they might be craving a healthy snack!

Follow up

  • When I get home, I send a brief email to anyone I spoke to who seemed interested in working with me, to thank them for their time and for speaking to me. The Entrepreneurial Linguist recommends doing this within a week of meeting a vendor, and including something like ‘Follow-up: XYZ tradeshow from XYZ’ in your email subject line.

There’s a lot to be said for ‘learning through experience’. In addition to getting some great tips from The Entrepreneurial Linguist, here are some other things I’ve discovered about the process of meeting prospective clients:

Take notes to jog your memory later

  • I’ve found that it helps to write down anything that stood out about the person you spoke to on the back of their business card. Just after speaking to a vendor I jot down any key things that will help to jog my memory of them in future. They can also be used as talking points in a follow-up email. Examples of things I’ve written on business cards include ‘from Barcelona but works in Paris’ and ‘coming to London in a few weeks – go for coffee?’. I also take note of what their response was and whether they gave me any other contacts (I find that often people say ‘I’m not sure how our company deals with translations but you can get in touch with our marketing director *insert name here*, they should know’). In this case, make sure you ask them for the contact’s direct email.

Attend a show when it’s quiet (well… as quiet as it can be!)

  • I normally aim to go to trade shows in the morning/early afternoon. Exhibitors sometimes rush off a couple of hours ahead of the official closing time, so you may miss them, and a lot of them are busy packing up their stalls if they’re still around.

Business cards

  • When giving someone your card, ask if you can have theirs too, so you can follow up with them when you get home. Although it may feel weird for you the first few times (it certainly did for me!), this is standard practice at this kind of event.

Take a motivational pick-me-up!

  • Consider taking a motivational book with you (or just download something onto your tablet/Kindle if you find books too old-school!) in case you need a little confidence boost during the day. I take The Entrepreneurial Linguist to any trade shows, conferences or general networking events I attend, just in case I need some inspiration during a coffee break or something to keep me focused on the way there.

Finding trade shows

  • In terms of finding trade shows online, I’d recommend easyfairs.com and 10times.com. You can search for shows and conferences by country/date/industry on both of these sites, which is really helpful. Judy and Dagmar recommend signing up for RSS feeds from any local convention centres near you who put on regular networking events or trade shows (here in London I’ve signed up to receive RSS feeds from the Olympia and ExCel centres), as well as checking if your local chamber of commerce has any upcoming events.

To finish off this post, I wanted to share how, in her workshop, Judy mentioned that acquiring direct clients is a lot more time consuming than finding translation agencies to work with, and that the former is more like a long-term investment. ‘You may have to kiss a lot of frogs’! In other words, acquiring good direct clients is very much about trial and error: you may pursue several leads that don’t work out, but some will! Although Twin Translations work solely with direct clients, Judy pointed out that there is a place for translation agencies or language service providers (LSPs) in today’s translation industry, and that Judy and Dagmar’s business model is not for everyone! It certainly seems to work for them, though!

Translators and interpreters: have you attended any trade shows in order to meet direct clients? If so, what have your experiences been like? What do you think has worked when you have approached them, and what hasn’t?

Many thanks to Judy and Dagmar for looking over this blog post before it was published and for allowing me to talk about their book!

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: 'No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Event attendees, a captivated audience

Event attendees, a captivated audience

[1] Taken from The Entrepreneurial Linguist. Unless mentioned otherwise, all quotes are taken from Judy and Dagmar’s book (with their permission, of course!)

Living the dream!

By Felicity Pearce

Helen Barlow, founder of A World of Words Translations is literally living the dream. The dream that many of us (myself included) have when we think about being a freelance translator. She is as free as a bird, traveling the world, translating and learning new languages as she goes. For this week’s post, we’ve been asking her a few questions about her Utopian existence.

FP: Helen, can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a freelance and traveling translator, and any experience you think really helped?

HB: I’ve always had a serious case of itchy feet which led to me working for 6 years as an English teacher overseas a few years after completing my BA in French and Spanish. I worked in France, Thailand and Peru, improving my language skills while traveling and gaining valuable cultural insights. When I was in Peru, one of the teachers gave me her CV to translate into English, and I really enjoyed doing it. I then had the opportunity to translate a travel guide about Lima, which made me think I could combine my passion for language and travel and achieve the freedom I craved by translating for the travel and tourism industry. I took a two-year online translation course with City University. After that, I threw myself wholeheartedly into making my location-independent lifestyle a reality and took the excellent Masters in Technical and Specialised Translation at Westminster University. Then I was ready to go!

FP: Although a dream shared by many of us, being a traveling translator can still be a daunting prospect. What advice would you give to those considering hitting the road? Was it a leap of faith or did you make the change gradually?

HB: After completing the Master’s course, I was impatient to start my new lifestyle, so I booked a one-way ticket to Brazil. I planned to work while learning Portuguese. In hindsight, I suppose I should have saved up some more cash and established myself more with translation clients/agencies before hitting the road. It wasn’t exactly easy at first; work slowly trickled in and I spent more time filling out countless agency forms and sending off CVs than actually translating. Good job the beach and street parties are free! After about 3 months, work became more regular. So, my advice is to head off once you’ve got your regular jobs and contacts all set up; well, that’s the sensible option!

FP: Getting back to palm trees and breath-taking views, where are your favourite places in the world to set up shop? What are some of the best views you’ve had from your “office”?

HB: I love Asia. I go to India and combine translating with yoga courses, taking in views of the Kerala backwaters, the Himalayas or the tea plantations. Bali is also popular among freelancers with its laid-back cafés and homestays overlooking the rice paddies. Latin America is also a firm favourite. Living in the vibrant historic centre of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, was an amazing experience. Closer to “home”, I have lived in Lisbon which is really well set-up for freelancers and has excellent co-working spaces and a rich café culture. I loved taking my laptop along to one of the many miradouros where I had my morning coffee while gazing out over the mishmash of terracotta rooftops.

helen

A day at the office

FP: And on a more practical note, we know that you travel with your laptop, but what contingency measures would you recommend, in case there are internet issues, etc.?

HB: A local SIM card for your smartphone. Also, I have a “mi-fi”, or personal hotspot, which is a great back-up in times of weak or no wi-fi. It just requires a local SIM card. That’s about it.

FP: Finally, what is the single best thing about your job?

HB: FREEDOM! Being able to work from absolutely anywhere is such a luxury. I do work full-time and it’s not a walk in the park, but I’m trying to make my life as much as possible like a permanent holiday.  And not having to physically GO to work, there’s no commute and your office can be a park bench, a beach, the airport. And your work attire can be your bathing suit!

FP: And the hardest?

HB: Time differences. I was recently in San Francisco which is 8/9 hours behind Europe. I had to sleep with the phone glued to my ear and often set my alarm for 3am to check my emails. However, it’s a different story in Asia as you have the whole day before the emails start flooding in!

And as all freelancers will agree, those occasional job droughts can be scary and the extremely tight delivery deadlines are downright stressful.  I also miss having colleagues, that Friday feeling (but not the Monday morning one…) and after-work drinks! Still, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Thank you so much Helen for sharing you experience and insight with us. Bon voyage!

Helen Barlow is a traveling translator, budding travel writer and yogi who calls the whole world home. Her translation specialisms include travel & tourism, fashion, beauty, gastronomy, magazine journalism and cultural events.