Tag Archives: translator

Being a freelance translator with Parkinson’s


I first joined Surrey Translation Bureau (STB) in September 2007. I was thrilled to officially enter the translation industry after graduating with my MA in Applied Translation Studies and quickly felt at home with the in-house team of linguists at STB. I stayed for three years before moving on to work in the city for a further five, ultimately going freelance in 2015 following the birth of my first child and a diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 29.


Fast-forward several years, and I am flattered to have been approached to assist with some ad-hoc freelance project management cover at STB, especially given some of the unique challenges I sometimes face as a young person with Parkinson’s.


Although I’m six years post-diagnosis, I am still actively working, alongside raising two young children and volunteering, so I am very lucky to be afforded the flexibility of a freelance career. Being a self-employed linguist can sometimes be isolating, so I welcomed the opportunity to once again work in an office environment, and STB is an understanding employer that values my expertise and experience and sees past my medical condition.




Flexible working hours can really make a difference for working age people living with progressive chronic conditions. I personally work around my kids’ nursery drop-off/pick-up times; however, employer understanding when it comes to flexible start/finish times and medical appointments can improve working conditions for people living with long-term conditions who may experience fatigue, amongst other things. For many people, the possibility of working from home can also alleviate the pressure of stressful commutes and therefore increase productivity.


Typing is the most problematic issue I face in my work – my main PD symptoms being tremor and rigidity in my left-hand-side – and translation project management can be typing-intensive. Whilst deadline-oriented offices are often geared towards conversing via internal chat systems, I sometimes find it easier to talk to my colleagues in person as the less typing I need to do, the better. Encouraging verbal communications can improve colleague relationships and reduce the volume of typing required. Speech recognition is often recommended to me but, unfortunately, at least in this line of work, it has serious limitations.



My tremor is the most unpredictable symptom I experience, and for this reason I decided to openly inform my colleagues about my Parkinson’s on temporarily re-joining their in-house team. Any high or low in mood can set off my tremor, and it is often misunderstood as being due to stress, but this is not the only cause. All said, six years ago I had no idea how my illness would progress. Today, I’m delighted to be working at STB again in an industry I love.


More about my story: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-47822507


My blog: https://pdmamablog.wordpress.com/


If you would like to speak to a member of the team at Surrey Translation Bureau about translation, please call 01252 730014 or email hello@surreytranslation.co.uk.


Written by Ellie Finch Hulme

Surrey Translation Bureau announce their star translator this quarter


At STB, we like to put the spotlight on our outstanding freelancers. This quarter our team has selected Beth Dennison as STB’s Star Translator!


Beth, a freelance translator residing in a tiny village in the peak district, completed her first job for STB in 2011 and has been supplying us with top-quality Chinese and Japanese to English translations ever since, specialising in medical and technical texts. Project managers appreciate Beth’s professionalism and lightning-fast replies to all requests, big or small. What’s more, Beth’s fearlessness in tackling complicated patent and medical translations is what makes her one of our top linguists – no PDF is too daunting, nor job too technical. Thank you Beth for your hard work! Read on to learn a bit more about our Star Translator.



Hi Beth, congratulations on becoming STB’s latest Star Translator! We’d love to learn a bit more about you, so can you first tell me what motivated you to become a translator?


I loved learning languages at school (French and German) and so decided at an early age that I wanted to make a career out of something I enjoyed. Then I started studying Chinese and Japanese because I thought they’d be interesting and useful, and they became my main language pairs.


French, German, Chinese and Japanese – that is quite impressive! What do you see as the benefits of speaking another language?


For me, personally, it has enabled me to work and travel freely in China and Japan. I was able to really immerse myself in the cultures and make many close friends for life. More generally, I think that speaking another language gives us an insight into other countries and perhaps makes us more open to different ideas and viewpoints.


What does an average working day look like for you?


I think one of the main reasons that I love being a translator and working from home is that I don’t really have an average working day as such. I tend to check my emails quite early in case a client in China or Japan has been in touch, but other than that I arrange my day according to my workload and other commitments.


And finally, do you have a favourite place that you’ve travelled to?


That’s a difficult one, but I think that my fondest memories are of places in China and Japan. I think I would maybe have to choose the scenery of the Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo in China, with its karst mountains; Mount Huangshan, also in China, because of its sea of clouds; and maybe the temples of Kyoto in Japan.


I think I’ll start planning my next trip now! Thank you for your hard work Beth!

Surrey Translation Bureau announce their star translator this quarter


Star translator award – congratulations to Sonia Clough!


So many of our freelancers deserve recognition for the excellent work that they do, and this award is our way of doing just that.


Sonia is a ES>EN, RU>EN and PL>EN translator who has been working with STB for around 11 years. She specialises in the translation of legal contracts and pharmaceutical documentation relating to clinical trials.



All STB project managers agree that Sonia is an invaluable member of our freelance team. She consistently delivers top-quality work and earned special praise this quarter not just from the in-house team, but also from other freelancers who called her translation ‘fluid’ and ‘flawless’. She also took on a tricky project that included handwritten medical notes and delivered in batches which allowed us to meet a tight deadline. Read on for a short interview with this quarter’s winner.


Hi Sonia, congratulations on becoming STB’s latest Star Translator! We’d love to learn a bit more about you, so can you first tell me what motivated you to become a translator?
My favourite subjects at school were languages and English and I have always enjoyed the challenge of turning a text in another language into a piece of natural-sounding English. I was also attracted by the variety offered by the profession as there are practically no limits to the type of document you could be asked to translate.


What do you like most about being a freelance translator?
Although working alone can be stressful, I take a lot of pride in the fact that everything I translate has been completed by me alone and there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from producing a piece of work that you are proud of, especially when you receive positive feedback from a client. Finally, I really value the flexibility of being able to fit my work around life with two small children and one very elderly cat.


How did you find yourself specialising in legal and pharmaceutical texts?
This is primarily due to the high volume of work in these areas, but I do really enjoy working in these fields. Both legal and pharmaceutical texts tend to be written by people who are experts in their field and are designed to be as clear and accessible as possible, which means that they are normally very nicely worded – a lack of ambiguity is always appreciated as a translator!


Moving on to outside of work, do you have a favourite book in any of your languages?
My favourite books in Spanish are the Shadow of the Wind series of novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which are real page-turners, full of mystery and they paint a really atmospheric picture of Barcelona in the 1940s. My favourite book in Polish would be the hauntingly sad but beautiful The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman. In Russian, I enjoy a good crime thriller by Aleksandra Marinina.


Finally, if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, where would you travel?
Tough question and I can’t choose just one place! I love a city break and my top five cities would have to be: Istanbul, Prague, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and New York.


All excellent choices – I think I’ll go plan my next holiday now! From all of us at STB, thank you for your hard work Sonia!

Surrey Translation Bureau announce their star translator this quarter

Star Translator Award – Congratulations to Josie Worrall!

So many of our freelancers deserve recognition for the excellent work they do, and this award is our way of doing just that!

We are very excited to announce our new Star Translator, Josie Worrall!

Josie is a FR>EN and RU>EN translator and has been freelancing with STB for over five years. She works with marketing texts, specifically in the tourism sector, where she combines a love of creative writing and of different places and cultures. In addition to this, she’s expanded her specialisms by focussing on technical, medical and monolingual editing jobs for STB.

Our project managers were unanimous in singing her praises this quarter, and all agreed that Josie is an invaluable freelance translator who continually impresses with her top-quality translation work and flexible approach. Whether she’s taking on particularly tricky jobs or navigating new and unchartered translation software, Josie always goes above and beyond in the work she does with us. Read on for a short interview with this quarter’s winner.


Hi Josie, congratulations on becoming STB’s latest Star Translator! It’s very well deserved. We’d love to learn a bit more about you, so can you first tell me what motivated you to become a translator?

I studied French and Russian at university, and knew I wanted to use them both on a daily basis. I am a real bookworm, and I also love a good puzzle, so it seemed to me that translation would be the perfect fit. I studied for a Master’s in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Bath and here I am!

What do you like most about being a freelance translator?

Without a doubt the flexibility it brings. I enjoy setting my own schedule, and being able to decide what work I take on.


Flexibility is definitely the most popular answer to that question! So, what does an average working day look like for you?

I generally start the day with an early morning gym session or yoga class to wake me up, followed by a big breakfast and copious mugs of coffee. My office hours are normally 8.30-5, but the advantage of remote working means you will sometimes find me and my laptop in my local coffee shop, which sells the best vegan donuts!


Yum, coffee and vegan donuts! Sounds like a match made in heaven! What about training? Do you find time to fit any ECPD into your working day?

I think it’s really important to keep learning new things throughout your career, so I make a point of attending training courses as often as I can. A couple of weekends ago I spent a day learning about subtitling with Yorkshire Translators and Interpreters, and I have attended some interesting webinars on the energy sector recently.

What is your favourite book in your source/target languages?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I have a really beautiful old edition that I found in a charity shop with a handy bookmark that lists all the characters and their relationship to each other, which is essential to avoid confusion!


Wow, I’m sure reading that keeps you busy! When you’re not reading, what do you do in your spare time?

In my opinion, there’s no better way to spend a Sunday than a good country walk in the Yorkshire Dales, followed by a hearty pub lunch and a well-earned tipple.


Couldn’t agree more! Cheers, Josie!

All I want for Christmas this year…


santaWe all have that special Christmas wish list we secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, want to share with Santa. For our STB Christmas wishlist this year, we were lucky enough to have some of our translators share with us what they would really like for Christmas.


Let’s have a look at some of the highlights, by singing a traditional Christmas song with a twist. Feel free to join in if you like!




On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… some awesome translations relating to sewing, the feedback I got when I sent them was glowing!



On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… a desk with a treadmill to walk while I work, it keeps me quite fit, but I look like a jerk.


On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… instructions to learn how to use ‘MemoQ’, a CAT tool that helps me to do work for you.


On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… Romanian lessons and, to keep up with fiction, I also received an Audible subscription.


On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… the gift of world peace, to cure all our ills, and also some decent time-management skills.



On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… praise for my work to allay all my fears – plus guaranteed work for the next thirty years!


On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… a ‘Traduire’ subscription (un journal français) and a year’s membership for the ATA.


On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… a new laptop (I’ll throw the old one away) and a client that pays me in golf holidays!


On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… some marketing jobs for my creative fix, and some books filled with grammar and stylistic tips.



On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… a trip to a lovely German Christmas market and a clever device to translate to my target.


On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …
… some training to boost my professional growth and a game with some accents from right round the globe.



On the 12th day of Christmas … I was too tired, so my true love just told me what you all desired!




Why not let us know what your perfect gift would be this Christmas. You never know, Santa might be sitting behind one of the desks at the STB office making a note of your wishes!



Call us at 01252733999 or email hello@surreytranslation.co.uk if your wish includes translation!

Turning pro bono translation on its head


More often than not, inexperienced translators find themselves in a Catch-22 situation: they need to gain experience in order to get started in the industry but clients and/or agencies may be unwilling to allocate work to them as a result of their overall lack of translation expertise. So how can this cycle be broken? For newly qualified translators, carrying out pro bono translation work could be a good place to start. Organisations such as NGOs, international aid organisations or even local authorities often have this kind of work available for those finding themselves in such a predicament.


Voluntary translation can prove to be extremely rewarding for translators as they are given the opportunity to fly the flag for their chosen charitable organisation or cause whilst honing their translation skills. Similarly, pro bono translation allows aid organisations, both large and small, to tap into other countries’ markets and access a wider audience of potential donors – all at a reduced rate or, in some cases, free of charge.


The Rosetta Foundation is an organisation that will be familiar to all those seeking to kick-start their pro bono translation career. The organisation’s crowdsourcing platform ‘Translation Commons’ (trommons.org) essentially functions as an interface between non-profit organisations and volunteer translators from around the world.


Translators without borders


Another globally renowned non-profit organisation, Translators Without Borders, recently approached us at STB to take part in the ‘Simple Words for Health’ terminology project. This task involved several members of staff organising previously existing medical terminology in an English-language database in a way that was clear, functional and user-friendly for anyone wanting to access it a later date. A challenging, but rewarding assignment for those of us here in the office who took part.


Pro bono translation, however, is not without its drawbacks. Despite the good intentions of inexperienced translators wanting to do their bit for their chosen cause, it may prove more trouble than it is worth – both for them and for the organisations employing their services. There are occasions where the text in question requires a vast amount of subject-specific knowledge; for example, specialist medical/pharmaceutical knowledge may be required for translations carried out on behalf of the organisation Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). This may lead generalists to struggle or feel out of their depth. If this is the case, the overall quality and reliability of the translation provided will, of course, be called into question. This is an issue that aid organisations should be made aware of and take into account for future translations as experienced specialist translators may not be prepared to take on large volumes of work for no fee.


If you want to find out more about our work with Translators Without Borders or need more information on pro bono translation, why not give us a call on 01252 733999 or email at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk

“I need a French translator!” – A guide for the first-time translation buyer

The Eiffel Tower - a symbol of France and French translation

So, you’ve been tasked with organising the translation of some of your company’s marketing material or technical manuals into French. You’ve never handled a translation project before, and suddenly you’re in at the deep end. “I need a French translator! Ahhh!”

Don’t panic! You’re reading this blog, which means you’re already in safe hands. Plus, organising a translation project can actually be a lot more straightforward than you might think. Just answer these 5 simple questions to make sure you get a fantastic translation.


1. What language do I need?

Now this might sound obvious, but when you get in touch with a translation company, you will need to know the language you want the document translated into. You should also consider where in the world you want people to read your text: though they may be neighbours, there are some differences between the variants of French used in France and Belgian French, for example. (Not to mention Canada and Switzerland!) This applies to plenty of other languages too, including English, so have a read of our language variants blog post to find out more.


2. What’s the purpose of the text?

If you’re new to ordering translations, then you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s as simple as taking each individual word and writing the exact equivalent of it another language. In reality, though, there are countless factors that can influence a professional translator’s choices during the course of their work, and the intended purpose and audience of your text are right at the top of that list. That’s why knowing the type of document and what the translation is going to be used for is absolutely vital.

Armed with this knowledge, a good translation company can select a translator whose experience and expertise perfectly match your needs. Plus, knowing the purpose of your translation is important when it comes to choosing exactly what service you require: here at Surrey Translation Bureau, for example, we offer a range of different service levels designed to suit the various requirements you may have.

Say you’ve received a letter and just need to know what it says for internal, information purposes; then the single professional translator and automated QA checks of our core translation service (Translation and Checking) will be best. Or maybe you’re preparing marketing material to accompany a product launch on a new market? Our Translation and Revision service, with two qualified, rigorously tested professional translators working on your text, will ensure precision.

3. How big is my text, and how soon do I need it translated?

This may seem like another obvious point, but it bears repeating: the longer the text for translation, the longer you can expect the translation process to take. Taking into account all of the necessary research, planning and careful consideration that your project demands, a professional translator can handle approximately 2000 words of translation per day. Add in a day or two for project planning and QA procedures and, so long as you know the size of your file, you can easily work out a reasonable timeframe for your project. Therefore, it’s always best not to put off organising your translation and start sooner rather than later. We can sometimes get your translation back to you more quickly if it is an urgent project.

4. What format are my files in?

Naturally, a builder is going to want to see your plans before quoting you on your extension, right? Well, a translation company will normally need to see your document before providing you with a quote for the translation too. (Confidentiality is standard practice at STB, but we can also sign an NDA if you like.) We use automated document analysis software to check your file to ascertain an exact word count. This will ensure you receive as accurate a quotation as possible, and could even save you some money. It really is worthwhile.

At STB, we’re able to work with pretty much every file format under the sun. To get the best results, though, it’s ideal to send your file in an ‘editable’ format, like a Word doc, a PowerPoint presentation, or an InDesign file. These formats facilitate the translation process and allow us to deliver your translation formatted identically to your original document. If you only have a PDF, a JPEG scan of a physical document or something else entirely, then don’t worry! Just get in touch and one of our team will be happy to talk through it with you.

In addition, if your company has style guides, any reference material or certain preferences for terminology, send these to us. This will ensure the translation reflects the style you are looking for.

5. What do I need to know about quality and pricing?

So you’ve answered all our questions and you’re ready to contact a translation company to make your project a reality. Great job! You still need to make sure, though, that you find a partner to work with who is every bit as invested in your project as you. When looking for a translation agency to request a quote, keep an eye out for certain distinguishing features, such as membership of professional bodies like the ITI or Elia, or accreditation to the quality standards such as BS EN ISO 9001:2008 or the translation agency-specific standard, BS EN ISO 17100:2015. These qualifications will give you peace of mind that your translation is being handled by professionals.

Once you receive your quotation, be sure to read through it thoroughly. It’s important to make sure that you’re all on the same page about what the scope of the project covers. Once you’re happy, you can confirm the translation project and then sit back and relax. You’re now safe in the knowledge that all of your translation needs are being taken into consideration. Phew!


Whether you’re looking to organise your first translation or your hundredth, whether you’re looking for a French translator or any other language, email us today at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk or give us a call on +44 (0) 1252 733 999 for a quotation.