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!


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.


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!


Lyon at night!


The FR>EN team presenting their translation


Guest post by Lucy Brooks

by Paula Pitkethly

In September Lucy Brooks kindly hosted us as guest post writers on her blog eCPD Webinars. We are now able to reciprocate by hosting Lucy’s informative post on CPD and its importance to succeeding as a freelance translator. Over to you, Lucy.


At the start of this year I wrote a blog post about the difficulties faced by translators straight out of an MA, degree course or paid employment as they start out on their own as a freelance translator. http://spotlightontranslation.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/investigating-gap-between-translator.html

Today’s economic situation has meant that traditional routes into translation work have become scarcer. Previously, many would-be translators left university with their degrees and sought employment with in-house translation departments where they would hone their skills. Others entered different careers and applied their language skills within their chosen career, thus acquiring an extensive background in their field.

But the market in the 21st century has changed beyond all recognition. There are very few in-house or supervised translation positions available, and the competition for those that remain is fierce. It’s harder than ever for recent graduates to get a foot on the employment ladder. An article published in the Guardian in 2014 provides some statistics. Graduates from an MA course in translating are therefore increasingly turning to freelancing as possibly the only practical option open to them if they wish to pursue a full-time translation career.

Recent graduates and practising translators at all levels of experience need constantly to update their skills and knowledge. Learning simply cannot stop once a person has left full time education. As the modern world evolves, so must we. The tools we use to do our job, the sectors in which we ply our craft, and the markets in which we operate are subject to constant change. This kind of learning is known as continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing education.

Established in 2010, eCPD Webinars was the pioneer of online professional development for translators and, while not neglecting established translators, has increasingly been developing courses and talks for new translators.

One of eCPD’s most successful courses, the Business School for Translators, developed by Marta Stelmaszak, is a fantastic resource for new (and indeed established) translators to build and expand their business and create their own niche in the market.

Freelancers have to plan, pursue (and pay for) career development, unlike those in paid employment. But on the upside, they can plan a precisely tailored career path that precisely fits in with what they want to do.

So, while ultimately it is the individual who is responsible for developing a career, I am now offering my services, through eCPD Webinars, to new and established translators in an online consultancy service to help them along the way. eCPD’s consultancy service for translators and interpreters is aimed at helping language professionals set up and work on a professional development plan and is based upon my, and my fellow directors’ many years of experience in the profession.

I will discuss with you what you are seeking, how you want your career to develop and how you can be fulfilled in your work. After the initial online interview, I will carry out research and advise you accordingly.

All advice is unbiased and will not necessarily recommend eCPD’s own courses. However since eCPD covers so many topics, it is likely that they will figure somewhere in the mix! Work-Life balance is hard to gauge, and every individual will want to work out their own balance. We will be discussing this aspect of your work, as well as ideas for directions in which to move forward and tips for organising your business and work.

My credentials to do this are set out on the information page, along with several recommendations. The service started in September 2015.

The information page also contains a video to explain how it works.

Following a career in industrial PR and IT training, Lucy Brooks became a professional translator in 1991, working from German, French and Spanish into British English. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and attained Chartered Linguist status in 2008. She has always taken a keen interest in continuing education for linguists, having served on the Translating Division committee of the CIoL during which time she pioneered Internet-based training for translators. She is the founder of eCPD Webinars in the UK and works closely with the ATA, the CIoL, ITI and AUSIT on webinar training. She continues to translate for many of her longest-standing customers.

Following a career in industrial PR and IT training, Lucy Brooks became a professional translator in 1991, working from German, French and Spanish into British English. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and attained Chartered Linguist status in 2008. She has always taken a keen interest in continuing education for linguists, having served on the Translating Division committee of the CIoL during which time she pioneered Internet-based training for translators. She is the founder of eCPD Webinars in the UK and works closely with the ATA, the CIoL, ITI and AUSIT on webinar training. She continues to translate for many of her longest-standing customers.

Speech, Interpreting and the Brain

by Sandra Young

On Friday and Saturday I attended the ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network’s most recent workshop on the neurological processes involved in speech. Over the two days we heard from four researchers, Professor Richard Wise, Dr Anne Symonds and Professor Paul Matthews from Imperial College London and Professor Sophie Scott from University College London.

Today I want to share with you some of what I learnt from these talks, as well as thinking about these processes in the context of simultaneous interpreting.

How did we evolve speech?

Before looking at anything else, it is helpful to understand why we are physically capable of speaking. If we hadn’t evolved in the way that we did, we wouldn’t have the physical components necessary to make speech happen. Richard Wise brought the example of the Turkana boy to our attention. The boy is from approximately 1.5 million years ago, but his skeleton was found nearly intact. Using clues from his skeleton experts decided that he couldn’t have been capable of speech.

The reason for this is that he doesn’t have an expanded thoracic canal (see the image below). We need this so that complex neural structures can flow down our vertebrae to allow for the fine control of our intercostal muscles, which run along our ribcage. This allows us to control airflow in such a way to permit speech. Otherwise we would only be able to say one…word…at…a…time.

thoracic spinal canal


Fine control of our intercostal muscles is central to our ability to speak. This would not be possible if we were not bipedal. Standing up straight released our intercostal muscles from the supporting functions required during four-legged movement, allowing them to develop this fine control. Without these two features, we would not have been able to free these muscles to use in speech, or develop the increased innervation which allows us to control the flow of air to be able to speak fluidly, slowly releasing the air from our lungs. Our intercostal muscles have the same level of fine motor control as our hands, so it’s some pretty impressive stuff.

Add to this the use of our larynx (voice box), vocal cords and the motor skills of the tongue, you have speech! An interesting article about the evolution of speech can be found here. Also check out these links if you are interested in seeing our larynx and tongue in action.


Speech perception, production and semantics

Now we have looked, albeit briefly, at how we evolved the power of speech, we can take a look at what happens in our brain when we are listening to and producing speech. Many discoveries regarding language localisation – sites in the brain directly related to speech perception and production, were made in the 1860s and 70s. It was during this period that the Wernicke-Broca pathway was discovered.

brocas etc

Wernicke’s area is a part of the brain directly related speech perception, whereas Broca’s area is related to speech production. This McGill page goes into more detail about these two areas and how they were discovered. Lichtheim later proposed the theory of a concept area, in which semantic analysis would take place, so damage to the “connections” between this and the Broca’s or Wernicke’s areas would lead to different types of aphasia.

From here we start to think about the laterality of language – which side of the brain is involved in which activity. It would appear that:

  • The left hemisphere is generally used for semantics – understanding what is being said
  • The right hemisphere is more involved in processing other information relating to that speech – pitch, mood, emotion, etc.

Therefore, if someone flattens their speech then it is the right brain that will usually react to this change. This laterality is not found in 100% of people, but around 90% of right-handed people, and around 70% of left-handed people.

atl hub


The semantics system is found in the anterior temporal lobe regions (highlighted in pink above), and is strongly left lateralised in general (nearly always has strong activation in the left, rather than the right, hemisphere). What I found particularly interesting about this is when you are listening to someone else, both the left (semantics) and right (other information) are activated, but when you speak these areas are depressed, or switched off. The implication of this is that you don’t need to process what you are saying – you have planned this before you say it. However, I believe that in the context of interpreting these activation sites may alter.

The Brain and Interpreting

Obviously I don’t have any of the answers, but the talks over the weekend really made me think about some of the issues and peculiarities of how brain activity might differ when performing simultaneous interpreting.

There are just a couple of things I would like to highlight.


I would be interested to see if left- and right-handedness affect brain activation during simultaneous interpreting, and also if this is linked to ear preference for headphone use.

Also, it would be interesting to look at the differences in brain activation during interpretation:

  1. when interpreting to the interpreter’s A language in comparison to the B language, to see if there are different activation levels for semantics, or in the motor areas of the brain, or
  2. the differences between monolingual brains and bilingual brains and those of professional interpreters.

Semantics system

Learning that the semantics system is usually suppressed when we speak was a fascinating discovery. When performing simultaneous interpreting then we are simultaneously listening and speaking. What’s more, we are listening to the original, producing the translation and monitoring our production of the translation.

Therefore it would seem that simultaneous interpreters’ brains may be able to cancel the suppression of parts of the brain, or perhaps even activate different parts of the brain during this task.

I found a study by Green et al, back in 1990, looking at the lateralisation differences between monolinguals, (matched) bilingual controls and professional interpreters. They gave the groups shadowing, paraphrasing (monolingual) and interpreting (bilingual and professional interpreters) tasks, using finger tapping as a measurement for interference (comparison with a baseline performing no verbal task).

If you want to read more about the study, please follow this link. Here were the general conclusions:

  • In monolinguals the LH interference was greatest.
  • Monolinguals were LH lateralised for paraphrasing, whereas both bilinguals and interpreters were bilateral for interpreting and LH for shadowing.
  • There was an absence of significant differences between bilinguals and professional interpreters. This means that the brain activity is associated specifically with the task of interpretation, not that the changes occur as a result of experience in the practice of interpretation.
  • Tapping disruption was also much greater in paraphrasing/interpreting than in shadowing as a result of higher levels of processing – phonemes vs semantic.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please comment below. Throughout the week I will try to find further studies to share to try to build a more complete picture about what is going on in our brains when we perform the task of interpreting.

On another note, Professor Sarah Scott said she would be fascinated to do a study on simultaneous interpreters, so if anyone is interested, maybe you could contribute to research in the field.





How can style sheets help you to improve your business?

I attended a webinar by Karen Tkaczyk entitled Take charge: develop your technical style set, hosted by Alexandria Library in May.

I wanted to write about what I learned in the webinar and I also feel it fits in quite well with Claire’s blog post last week on time management.

The webinar focused on developing personal style sheets for your clients in a technical setting, and considering the importance of this in moving forward in your career. This was particularly relevant for me as I work predominantly in the technical sector, but I also think that this tool can be applied to any area of translation.

Why are personal style sheets important?

I’m sure that all of you reading refer to standard style guides in your work at times – the Chicago Manual of Style, the Economist Style Guide, etc. As language professionals, we can use these to guide us when we have doubts, to provide us with solid arguments if our choices are questioned or if we question the choices of others. If you want to read more about the effective use of style guides in our work, take a look at Nikki Graham’s blog post on the subject.

Personal style sheets take it one step further. By developing these we can then have the choices and preferences of our repeat clients at our fingertips. This not only helps to ensure consistency, but also speeds up our work and makes us more productive. This is of the utmost importance in areas such as technical translation, where there is an abundance of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology or spelling preferences. The inconsistencies I often find in the technical texts I translate make this all the more relevant.

The first time I used a personal style sheet/checklist was when I was working on a Portuguese-English dictionary project for Oxford University Press. A full style guide was available, but it was very long, making it difficult to look up specific queries quickly when finishing a batch of entries to deliver. I therefore pulled out the aspects that were most relevant to me and collated them in a very simple checklist.

Dictionary translation is different from other types of translation as you are working with very short lengths of text, with a particular focus on many different linguistic aspects of words, such as phonetics, register, dialect, etc. However, the reasons behind using a checklist or style sheet are the same – to remind you of anomalies to look for, to ensure consistency, and to speed up the whole process of translation and editing.

Since working on the dictionary project, I have worked with a number of other style guides (both client ones and professional ones) to aid me in my work. In the past I have generally made checklists to highlight specific aspects for different clients. However, the template provided by Karen after the workshop was in table form, which  I think will be more effective due to the visual way it spreads out the information.

Karen said something that really struck a chord with me during the webinar: technical writing is often considered to be badly written. However, our job as professional linguists is to create a report, article or information leaflet that is concise, accurate and well written. Style guides, and moreover personal style sheets that we have developed for our clients, can help us to achieve this more efficiently.

What can you include in a style set?

Anything that changes from client to client, a specific requirement for a client, or specific aspects of the language for which consistency is paramount to ensure a coherent text. Here are some examples:

  • Use of decimal points
  • Units of measurement
  • Formatting – bold, underlined, font size, etc.
  • Client-specific terminology preferences
  • Inconsistent use of vocabulary
  • Inconsistent use of spelling (between US and UK English)
  • Numbers (numerals or letters – a mix is often used without following normal style rules).

Are these similar in your area of translation? Would style sheets be useful in keeping track of these and correcting them when necessary?

How does having a style guide help you to eliminate inconsistencies from your translations?

I worked on the Oxford Dictionary project consistently for two years, yet I would still forget aspects of the style guide as it was so extensive. Having a checklist to highlight particular aspects that often slipped through the net was essential for giving my brain a nudge in the right direction, and for focusing on the specific issues to look out for when checking batches for delivery.

The same applies to style sheets. Currently I work with a mix of clients: I have a couple of main clients with whom I work most weeks, others with whom I work most months, and others with whom I work on the odd project. A style sheet ensures that you don’t forget the issues specific to each client, and that you continue to provide a consistent service. Rather than wasting time wading through paperwork and trying to find the specific requirements for each client, you will have all the details on your style sheet. You’ll also have your extra notes on the terminology choices you have made (when not otherwise specified) or that you have decide on using a suitable general style guide of your choice.

 What does this mean for the client?

By developing a style sheet, you can provide your clients with an improved, sleeker service. Furthermore, taking the time to attend to details in order to ensure consistency throughout the text will show your client that you care about the quality of the text. It is worth highlighting your efforts to new clients, firstly to make them aware of the consistency measures you are taking with their texts, and secondly so you can collate a list of their preferences.

Do you think this technique works in your area of translation? What are the similarities/differences in the issues that come up in comparison with the technical sector? Please comment below!



ITI Medical and Pharmaceutical Network workshop on Diabetes


By Sandra Young

This May I attended my second ITI Mednet workshop, this time on the subject of diabetes. For the morning sessions, the group had invited an expert in the field, Dr Shanti Vijaraghavan, a Consultant Physician specialising in this area. The first half of the day consisted of talks in which she outlined the management and complications of the disease, highlighting differences between type I and II diabetes.

The talks allowed me to consolidate my knowledge on the subject of diabetes and its complications, assimilate new terminology and discuss the appropriateness of certain terms. Here are some examples of what I took away with me:

Diabetes and its complications

  • Good blood glucose control is essential for a person with diabetes’ health and to minimise complications. However, a person living with diabetes will develop complications such as neuropathies and retinopathies after living with the disease for a number of years, despite good blood glucose control.
  • Hypoglycaemic awareness fades as a result of damage to the sympathetic nervous system, meaning that symptoms (the warning signs of hypoglycaemia) disappear with time.


  • Charcot joint – complete lack of sensation in the joint, which leads people to injure themselves without realising. This eventually results in a disfigured joint.
  • Claudication – pain caused by too little blood flow, usually brought on by exercise.
  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) – Incredibly high blood sugar which results in “sludgy” blood.
  • Secretagogue – a substance that stimulates secretion, also a term used for insulin-releasing pills.

Appropriateness of terms – what do the experts really say?

  • Brittle diabetes – to describe someone with a type of severe diabetes characterised by blood sugar levels that are difficult to control.
  • Fundus – the correct terminology for the “back of eye” exam.

A morning of absorbing information was perfectly paired with an afternoon of working in language pair groups on a diabetes-related text. In my opinion, this combination is central to the success of the Mednet workshops and constitutes a fertile ground for learning.

The text dealt with complications of diabetes and its association with oxidative stress. It was a very interesting text to work on in a group of translators with varying backgrounds and experience. Our group, the Spanish to English group, was made up of translators who were originally from scientific backgrounds, pure-linguist backgrounds, editing backgrounds and native Spanish translators.

The input from those with a scientific background was invaluable, as they could use their understanding of the subject to decipher the more ambiguous sentences. The text used acronyms and abbreviations in a haphazard and non-standard way, in most cases failing to give a definition in the first instance. An example of this was the use of English acronyms ROS and RNS for reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, but then the Spanish acronym was used for nitrous oxide (ON).

There was also a spelling mistake in which “citoaldehídos” appeared instead of “cetoaldehídos”. With an understanding of the context it was clear that it referred to something relating to ketones, not cells, but to the untrained eye this could cause a great deal of confusion. This highlights the importance of having a good understanding of the subject you are translating.

As regards editing, I learned that journals do not like the use of bulleted lists as a general rule. There was a section at the beginning of the article which had a problematic list, which contained a number of pairs of opposing functions. I had considered making a bulleted list of these opposing pairs. However,  advice was that a good solution might be to keep the list in the main body of the text, but to separate the pairs by semi-colons.

Being fairly new to medical translation, the group translations at these workshops are particularly useful for me as I get the opportunity to discuss problematic issues of a text with more experienced medical translators, hear their perspectives on these issues and learn from this. The group session this time helped me not only to better understand the concepts within the text, but also to learn more about editing and terminology within medical translations, all of which I can apply to my future work.

I have listed some resources for medical translations that were recommended during the group session:

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!)

ITI Workshop – Writing with Clarity and Impact

By Sandra Young

On a crisp cold day in January I found myself trekking past Linford Wood towards the ITI offices for the “Writing with Clarity and Impact” workshop to kick off 2015. The workshop was given by Piers Alder, professional copywriter and professional development consultant, and has given me something to really sink my teeth into while working towards my CPD goals for this year.

The workshop, as the name suggests, looked at how to write clearly for maximum impact. While there was some focus on marketing copywriting, it mainly looked at the techniques used in this sector and how we can apply these to any writing that we do.

Here are some of the things we looked at:

Positive and negative wording – when possible use words that inspire people, not that dissuade them. Rather than saying that something will be ‘difficult’ it might be better to say ‘we will try’.

Nominalisation – many romance languages prefer nominalisation. In English this can be cumbersome and detaches the reader. Using verbs, on the other hand, engages the reader and makes them feel involved in the text.

Clichés – overuse of familiar turns of phrase can grate on the reader. You can engage a reader by giving an unusual twist to a common saying.

Shorter is better – you might think that using elaborate vocabulary makes you sound sophisticated. This is not necessarily the case. Communication is paramount. Be clear. This in English often means that shorter words of Anglo-Saxon origin are more effective than words derived from Latin.

Overall, I found the day to be stimulating and thought-provoking. It was packed full of activities to keep us fully engaged, which also gave us the chance to apply the techniques we had learned. I work primarily with medical and technical texts, and you can get carried away with “fitting with the norm” as regards standard phrasing and structures, so this workshop served to really make me think about how some of these structures come across, and how they can actually obscure meaning. That said, it’s important to be able to distinguish between necessary subject-specific language and language which can be used to make the text more readable. Something to speak with clients about!

How do I think this will impact my work? I realise that every genre has its specific style, jargon and register, and in many cases we must adhere to these norms. However, we cannot just blindly follow them as this leads to language stagnation. The workshop reminded me of the importance of looking at a text and asking myself, “What are they actually saying here?” This will help me to write more clearly in future and to ensure that the message being conveyed is clear to the target readership. Doing this will also provide me with some discussion points for clients, and will perhaps enable me to contribute to better writing tendencies in my fields of work.

I’ll round off with an exercise that we did at the workshop. We had to come up with 6 word stories, such as the famous Hemingway one – “For sale: baby’s boots, never worn.”

Piers gave us a few minutes to have a try. The one I came up with was:

Clean hands hide a bloody past.

Have a go and send us yours!