Interview #6: Tess Whitty


We continue our countdown to International Translation Day 2013 with today’s interview with Tess Whitty. Tess works with English and her native Swedish. She actually moved her business in Sweden for a year and has just come back to the States. Find out what she has to say about translation!

Hello, Tess, and thank you for your participation in this project! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I am an English-Swedish translator specializing in software and website localization, business communication and medical translation. My previous professional and educational background is in international marketing and business communications and I have now worked as a full time translator for 10 years (since 2003).  I became a translator when we moved to the US from Sweden and I have never looked back. Aside from my regular translation work, I serve as language chair and grader for the English-Swedish certification program, and chair for the Chapter/affiliate group committee for the American Translators Association.  I am passionate about my job and also give training seminars and presentations on translation and marketing skills for translators.

What makes you so passionate about translation?

 I did not plan on becoming a translator when growing up, but it must have been fate that brought me to my dream job, translation. I love translation because it involves my passion for languages and writing, but also that I learn something new every day, and it is a constant evolution process. The fact that I can work as a freelance translator, be my own boss and set my own hours is of course also very important for my job satisfaction. I have always been interested in other countries, languages and cultures and through this profession I get to meet so many interesting people, both as clients and colleagues, from all over the world.

How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?

 I usually celebrate it by doing what I love, i.e. translating. But I often also attend training and celebration events online, such as the ProZ freelance translator conference online.

Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator? Did moving to Sweden help develop your business?

I do not feel that there are any difficulties that I cannot handle being a freelance translator, but one thing that can be difficult is to vet my clients and make sure that I get paid on time. As a freelancer it is also sometimes hard to find a good work-life balance, with freedom comes the responsibility to make it work. Also, for me, a Swedish native living in the US it is also very important to keep up with my native language, and something I have to be more conscious about than translators living in Sweden. In that respect, moving back to Sweden for a year certainly helped. I also took advantage of all the linguistic training opportunities there and made new business contacts. However, I almost felt that I would have needed to stay longer in order to really take advantage of all the business opportunities offered there.

 On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?

 They are probably the same as the ones that makes me passionate about this career, the freedom, flexibility and the constant learning and development. It is hard to choose a favourite since all of these are important to me, plus the fact that I can work with things I am passionate about.

What do you think the future holds for us translators?

 I think the future for us translators is bright. It is a growing profession and becomes more and more popular among choices of professions. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and with the increased globalization and the lightning speed development of electronic communication; the need for translation will keep increasing. The development of machine translation will not make us translators obsolete any time soon, but I think it is important that we translators learn how to benefit from machine translation in order to keep up with the development.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your answers with us, Tess!


Interview #5: Nicole Y. Adams


Today, our guest is Nicole Y. Adams. Nicole specializes in marketing for small-businesses. Now an established freelance translator, she even set up her own coaching system in order to help new translators develop their business. A prolific author, she has a highly anticipated book in the works which will deal with diversification in the translation industry.

Hello, Nicole and thank you for your participation! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Emeline, thank you for inviting me to take part in this wonderful project. I’m really pleased to be a part of it! I run a boutique German/English translation business specialising in marketing, PR and corporate communications. I launched my business, NYA Communications, in the UK ten years ago and am now based in Brisbane, Australia. Apart from language services, I also offer coaching for fellow freelance translators to inspire them and help them to grow their businesses. I find it very rewarding to see someone’s business go from strength to strength after mentoring or coaching them, and I think it’s important that we all help one another in the industry and share our knowledge with colleagues.

 What makes you so passionate about languages and translation?

I’ve always been a language enthusiast. Maths and science have never been among my strengths, but languages have always come easily to me. Back in high school, my final thesis was on comparing the German translation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath with its English original. So I must have had a thing for translation even then!

After working in-house for a number of years, I decided to go back to university in 2003 to complete a Masters in Contemporary English Language and Linguistics at the University of Reading, and I loved every minute of it. I never formally studied translation and took the exam to qualify as a state-certified translator in Germany as an external candidate, flying in from England just for the day. The examiners thought I was crazy, but I think some of us just have language and translation in our blood!

 How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?

Well, it’s a great excuse to demand gifts from friends and family, isn’t it? 😉 But jokes aside, I usually spend it in the office like any other day and attend an online event, usually one of the online conferences hosts every year to mark the occasion.

 Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator ? Did studying your specialization (i.e. marketing) help develop your business?

For me personally, the main challenge was relocating from the UK to Australia in 2010. I took my client base with me, and while it all went smoothly overall, the time difference did prove to be an issue for some clients whom I now no longer work with. The second major problem has been currency loss. As nearly all of my clients are based in Europe, the declining exchange rate over the past three years since moving to Australia has made things a little interesting at times.

In terms of specialising, yes, I did study marketing communications and public relations to consolidate my practical experience. I believe when we specialise, practical experience, e.g. in a marketing department for marketing translators, is ideal, but it should be underpinned by theoretical knowledge and relevant qualifications. This combination will best equip us to position ourselves as experts in our fields and find the right clients who will happily pay our expert rates.

 On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?

One of my favourite aspects about being a freelance translation professional is that I can meet up with fellow freelance colleagues for coffee or lunch to discuss the industry or the latest news and events. These ‘business meetings’ are definitely a major plus and I recommend everyone schedule in at least one every other week!

I was also thrilled that, as a solopreneur working from my home office, I could finally throw away my corporate wardrobe and work in comfort instead! I’m most productive in comfortable outfits and could no longer imagine working in a business suit all day.

The third and perhaps most important aspect is the huge amount of flexibility self-employment gives us. I feel blessed to enjoy a fantastic work/life balance, and I never need to miss out on my children’s school performances or other family outings because I can simply schedule my working hours to suit my personal preferences. I certainly couldn’t imagine a more rewarding career choice!

 What do you think the future holds for us translators?

I think the future is rosy for freelance translators. When I carried out a survey among 250 freelance translators in July for my upcoming book Diversification in the Language Industry (see for more information), I was thrilled to discover that while a total of 19.2% of respondents consider themselves ‘struggling freelancers’ today, only a total of 4.4% expect to be struggling five years down the track, with 6.4% seeing themselves working in-house or in another industry. This is very encouraging and indicates that there are fresh impulses in the freelance translation industry. Many of those impulses relate to diversification, meaning more and more colleagues will choose to offer services or products in addition to ‘pure’ translation. These services may be connected to their core service of translation, or they may relate to a completely different area of entrepreneurship within the language industry. I think these are very exciting developments, and I firmly believe that there are bountiful opportunities for freelance translators to grow their businesses and succeed in the language industry, today and in the years to come.

Thank you so much for this highly insightful interview, Nicole!

Interview #4: Judy Jenner


Today’s guest is one of the most recognized translators around the world – Judy Jenner. Judy founded her translation business, Twin Translations, along with her twin sister, Dagmar Jenner. A legal translator and interpreter for English and Spanish, she also teaches translation at the University of California-San Diego. When she’s not working, you can find Judy blogging at the Translation Times.

You grew up in different countries so I guess this is what ignited your love for languages. What makes you so passionate about translation?
Well, I know what it’s like to move somewhere and not speak the language, so I know how limiting that can be. We moved to Mexico City when my twin and I were quite youn, and it was fascinating to see a new world open up through language. I knew at an early age that I wanted to work with language, as it really connects people, cultures, and make international relations, trade, and business possible.

How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?
It depends. A few years ago, I was able to speak at an event in Seattle, Washington, which was fantastic. Sometimes the local Nevada association (the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association, NITA), of which I am the past president, holds a casual networking event, and sometimes I am on the road. This year, we will be in York after a workshop with the Yorkshire Translators and Interpreters Group, so I am sure we will celebrate this special day with fellow linguists. Unfortunately, we can’t be in two places at the same time, so we will miss a pretty large event organized by the Austrian association UNIVERSITAS, as we will be traveling in the evening. In short: I try to do something special every year if I can!

Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator ? Does working on two different continents and having a co-owner by your side help?
Running a small business comes with many challenges, including unreasonable deadlines and expectations, downward pressure on prices, limited resources (mainly time), etc. However, we’ve been very lucky and it’s been pretty much smooth sailings. Working with your best friend and twin sister certainly makes things much easier, and we also take advantage of time differences to make our clients happy.

On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?
There are too many – I don’t even know where to start, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the amazing friendships we have formed with translator friends around the world. We had an Argentine barbecue at Dolores Rojo Guiñazu’s house outside Buenos Aires and just spent an epic Greek vacation in Athens and Crete with our translator friends Catherine Christaki and Chris Floros, and it’s all because of this fantastic profession. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything this profession has given me.

What do you think the future holds for us translators?
I think the industry will undergo some changes in terms of technology (machine translation), but that translators, as always, will adapt, change, and persevere – just like we have done for centuries.

Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to this project, Judy!

Interview #3: Carolyn Yohn


We continue our International Translation Day series with today’s interview with Carolyn Yohn. Carolyn is a translator working from French and Hungarian to English. She blogs at Untangled Translations about her love for languages, the Hungarian culture and her specialization in the legal field.

Hello! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Certainly! My name is Carolyn Yohn, and I am a legal translator. I work from French and Hungarian into English under the name Untangled Translations. Sometimes I do some academic translation as well. My husband and I are currently moving from Washington, DC, to Sacramento, CA—a major change for both of us. We both were born and raised in Virginia, though I’ve also lived in Hungary, Switzerland, and Morocco.

You have quite an interesting language combination, working from Hungarian to English. What makes you so passionate about translation?
I fell in love with Hungarian poetry and humor while on a high school exchange year, and I wanted to share it with the world! For now, legal translation isn’t too bad—I enjoy the structure of the field, the specificity of phrases, and the information I glean as I work. But I’m always thinking about how I may eventually contribute to making Hungarian poetry and literature as well know as Dickens or Dostoevsky.

How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?
This is only my second full year as a full time translator, so honestly, other events or responsibilities have overshadowed this holiday in the past. That said, this year I’m excited to help spread the word about the profession any way I can! Cross-cultural communication helps the world go round.

Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator (and now self-published writer!) ? Does having a rare language combination help?
Oh, the usual I’m sure. 🙂 My greatest challenge has to be temporary lack of confidence: everyone has their off days, their distracted days. And I’ve always been very critical of my own work, even as a kid. It helps to be involved in the wider translator community, and to have non-work-related hobbies, too. On the one side, you get commiseration, on the other, you get a little escape from your head.
Working with a rare language combination is a great conversation starter, so business-wise I suppose it makes me memorable. Translation-wise, I enjoy the challenge of switching between French and Hungarian—it keeps me on my toes.

On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?
I love the freedom of working for myself, from home. Being in some company’s office five days a week just didn’t suit me. Plus, I get to dabble in so many other tasks: graphic design, HTML coding, marketing and sales… No day is like any other!

What do you think the future holds for us translators?
I think that any translator who stays flexible and continues to learn and grow her skill set will always find a market for her skills. There are many intelligent, well-educated people out there who either have no ability or no patience for acquiring extra languages—and need far more complex information translated than a machine algorithm will ever be able to do.

Thank you so much for this interview, Carolyn!

Interview #2: Sara Colombo


Today, we talk with Sara Colombo about the world of translation. Sara blogs about the importance of balancing life and work. A keen dancer and fitness lover, she shares with her readers some tips & tricks to lead a healthier life while remaining an excellent translator. She also recently self-published a book, Balance your words, which is full of advice for newbie translators!

Hello, Sara, and thank you for taking part in this project! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Hello Emeline, thank you very much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure!
I am an Italian translator and transcreator specialised in marketing, IT and health. I am also a blogger, a fitness pro and yoga addict. I have always loved languages and writing, but this year I have been lucky enough to publish my first book ‘Balance Your Words. Stepping in the translation industry’. The book has been defined ‘charming’, ‘witty’, ‘extremely interesting’, but I like to call it a ‘professional diary’ because it walks down the path that led me here. Good and bad times included.

You grew up in a multicultural home so I can imagine that you developed an interest for languages quite early. What makes you so passionate about translation?

Yes, languages have always been part of my life and I have always loved them. I have a multicultural (Jewish-Italian-Belgian) family scattered all over the world. My partner has a partly Belgian family, as well, so we are a really mixed and lively group! Family events can be a bit chaotic, though!

I have always loved both languages and literature, but translation only came when I started to volunteer as an undergraduate, and clearly loved it immediately.

Translating is all about understanding, and, as I love to say, finding the right balance. Indeed, you need to understand the client, but also the language, the text, the context, your skills, your limits. The more you understand these aspects, the better you will be able to establish a good rapport between the client, yourself and your job.

Moreover, I have to say I cherish the idea of becoming an established professional and tell people “I have been translating for 25 years”.
Experience is also a positive feeling, something that emerges when you look back and realise you and that client have been collaborating for three or more years, you know each other, and have a true and positive business relation. People trust you, and you can say you are working for them, as well.

On top of that, add the various possibilities that young freelancers have nowadays and you will get a mix of languages, business options, challenges and creativity able to motivate and guide any passionate translator.

How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?

In all honesty, I still have to. I like to use social media to share related articles, but have never had the chance to attend an event. And there are so many of them!
Translation is everything, it is a key feature of every business, and I believe that celebrating it is a great way to tell people what we do and how much we love it. So, yes, I think it’s an important recurrence.

Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator (and now self-published writer!) ?

Getting in the translation industry is not easy and you feel pulled in many directions, even confronted.
You have to convince potential clients about your skills while competing against established professionals, there are taxes and bills to be paid and you start to feel tired and frustrated.
Besides, people come and tell you how you should run your business, that you have follow a certain model, fit in. But fitting in is just another tool that the market uses to destroy your talent, while you need to be strong and avoid comforming if you really want to grow, establish yourself and change things.

I didn’t agree with the market and decided to follow my instinct. Think about the blog. It started out by chance, it raised a few eyebrows, but then people started to follow it. I received many emails and very positive comments.

If I had listened to all the negative feedback, the blog would not exist, now. My business would not exist. Don’t let other people control your business, listen to them, but love your ideas and instinct more. Follow them.

On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?

As I said above, it takes time to carve your niche out of what is a very busy and competitive market, but it pays you back. In terms of money (well, we have to eat, right?), but also personally and professionally.
From a postive feedback, a nice comment on the blog, an email of an inspired person, a compliment from an experienced colleague, the publication of the book.  When I started to interview people for my ‘Balance your words with…’ series I was really afraid to contact translators, I told myself let’s try with three, then I will decide. I was lucky and people loved the idea, we collected about 20 texts and the number is growing.  You might say it’s not that much, but it was my first attempt, I had to contact these big names personally and felt quite unsure.

The whole profession is challenging, (oh yes, you will face confrontations and a series of grey days, as well!) but if you are not afraid of trying and testing your ideas, it allows you to grow, establish professional relationships that grow with you and gives you the chance to express yourself. And appreciate the moment you decided to ditch negative people and follow your passion!

What do you think the future holds for us translators?

Translation services play an integral part of any business. Communicating across different cultures is important for every professional, company, organization. I think that this profession will keep on attracting many students and the demand for languages such as Japanese or Portuguese will increase.
On the other hand, however, I have noticed that many colleagues are investing their time and resources in new initiatives to diversify their services. The usual pair translator-interpreter has been replaced by more creative options like writer, copywriter, teacher, consultant, trainer, co-owner, but also researcher, dean, lecturer, journalist, photographer, artist and so on.
I don’t know if it is something directly related to the recession, but it clearly looks like something that, if thought with value and passion, can turn any skilled translator into a smart entrepreneur and contribute to the development of our industry.

Thank you so much for this very inspiring interview, Sara!

Interview #1: Lloyd Bingham



To kick off this series of interviews leading up to International Translation Day ’13, I interviewed fellow translator Lloyd Bingham. Lloyd is an in-house translators working with French, German, Spanish, Dutch and his native English (impressive, right?). He blogs over at Lloyd translates and is known for his Translator Diaries series. Based on this collection of interviews, he has a free e-book in the works, coming up on October 5.

Hello, Lloyd, and thank you for letting me interview you! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m a senior in-house translator working from French, German, Spanish and Dutch into English. In addition to translating, I co-manage the team of a dozen in-house translators at one of the UK’s largest translation companies. That’s what I do Monday to Friday, 9-5. Outside of that, I tweet and write on my website about language and translation as ‘lloydtranslates’, so I can engage with the translation community and keep up-to-date with developments.

 You are a language-lover and it really shows through your blog. What makes you so passionate about translation?

I had a taste of translation when I did some pro bono work as a student. I think the idea of making texts available to a whole new audience is exciting, as translations act as bridges between cultures. On a more personal level, it’s learning so many new things each day through the texts we work with and the research that goes with translation. And for me, it’s using all the languages I’ve learnt. Before I started taking the idea of translation of a career seriously, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to use all of my languages in my career and would end up losing them. Translation helps me not only keep them up to scratch, but to improve them each day.

 How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like any other day?

To be honest, I’ve yet to celebrate it and usually forget which day it falls on (now I know it’s 30th September!). So I’m glad that this initiative has been taken to engage more translators in this day. On Twitter, I have seen mentions of the odd gathering in person for this day, which is great if you live in London and haven’t got any work on that day, but for the majority of us who live elsewhere and have to work, it’s fantastic to organise virtual events to celebrate our profession and our community.

 As an in-house translator, do you think you face less difficulties than freelance translators?

Different difficulties, I would say. We face similar challenges, certainly, such as meeting client demands, ensuring quality, pursuing continuing professional development, and so on. But whereas freelance translators face the test of running a business, chasing payments, marketing, and developing business, in-house translators have requirements and targets placed on them by their employers. I would say, though, that working in-house is good preparation for progressing to freelance translation.

 On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?

I think the amount of control that translators have over their destiny, over shaping their career, is a winning aspect. You can pursue training in different domains, focus marketing efforts on the certain types of clients who you want to work with, network with individuals and companies who you would like collaborate with, attend different industry events, and even learn new source languages. Very few careers can boast this.

 What do you think the future holds for us translators?

It’s hard to say. The great news is we hear that the industry is growing. I see lots of new professionals starting up, and I mean translators who have studied hard and built up experience to offer a service with authority, translators who respect their industry, argue for quality and for their morals. Conversely, there are attempts to drive down prices within the industry, which I don’t think will be pandered to, as all industry professionals, and I’m including the reputable agencies here as well as freelancers, value the industry and refuse to sell it short. Thanks to social media, the translation community is becoming increasingly united, which can only make it stronger to fight such attempts at devaluation.

There is also a linguistic threat to the industry that, I feel, is not being taken seriously enough. I deal with hybrid language on a daily basis, texts written in Denglisch or Franglais. Languages have always borrowed and adopted from each other, but since the world has never been so connected, the lines between languages are blurring, and decades down the line, we may arrive at the point where you have a text in a hybrid language that contains such a mix that it could be argued it could be understood by the audiences of both the original source and target languages, rendering translation redundant. We can only reinforce the rule that translations should always be carried out by professionals, and continue to promote respect for all of our individual working languages on their own merits, something I feel very passionately about.

Thank you so much for your insights, Lloyd!


Hello and welcome!

This blog was created to celebrate International Translation Day ’13.

Please find out what this project is all about by clicking on the various links at the top of your screen.

If you want to take part in this initiative, please contact us here.

Enjoy your stay!