Tag Archives: experience

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

Translating Europe Forum – journey from Language Enthusiasts to Young Professionals

The end of October marked the second annual Translating Europe forum at the European Commission in Brussels. The event was organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation, Rytis Martikonis. Their objective was to bring young people in translation together and empower them to discuss ideas, projects, experiences and new approaches to translation.


Resource Manager, Allison, outside the European Commission
Resource Manager, Allison, outside the European Commission

The Translating Europe conference began on Thursday morning when motivational speaker and coach, Joy Ogeh-Huttfield (Joy Transformation), woke everyone up with her dynamic and fun presentation about having a vision and accomplishing personal goals. She told us to think outside the box, to raise our standards and to have a purpose. What better way to inspire young translators than to help them visualise their success?


Other topics discussed at the various panel-style presentations ranged from the translation of video games and multilingual app development, to localisation at Google, but the topic that seemed to resonate most with those in attendance was the ‘translation skills gap’. Seminars such as ‘Training translators in a changing world’ and ‘A Translator’s Palette of skills for the 21st Century’ discussed this topic. The seminars considered reasons why new translators might feel undertrained after completing their Master’s degree and proposed solutions to the problem.


You might be asking yourself, ‘What is this gap, and where did it come from?’. This ‘translation skills gap’ that many new translators experience occurs when they make the transition from full-time student to starting their career as a linguist. Emerging translators often admit to feeling underprepared for life as a professional freelancer and are left to figure things out on their own after graduation, not knowing how to specialise or where to begin. Just a few years ago, the best way to gain experience in the translation industry was to seek a position at an in-house translation department. There, new translators would hone their linguistic skills and build up experience in a specialist area. However, these coveted in-house positions are now few and far between.


So how can new translators gain the necessary skills to be successful in this industry? A common theme in the discussions following the panel presentations centred on the fact that young professionals entering the market tend not to lack the skills, but instead proper guidance within the industry. That is why traineeships and internships are playing an ever-increasing role in the career development of new translators.


Here at STB, we could not agree more with this sentiment. That’s why we piloted our university programme last year. It consists of a series of presentations to MA Translation Studies students around the UK. We talk to the students about how to find work with agencies and build a mutually beneficial professional relationship. We also started a six-week internship programme, giving interns experience in resource management, project management and translation and editing. We believe that a hands-on training approach paired with receiving constructive feedback is the best way for emerging translators to take the next step in their career and gain confidence in their skills.


The language industry is evolving at a rapid pace due to technology, so we must react and draw on our resources to prepare the next generation of translators and bridge the so called ‘translation skills gap’. It’s time for the translation industry and academia to collaborate so that we can provide emerging translators with the necessary skills to be successful in this industry.

Panelist, Miguel Severner, put it best during his presentation. “Let’s train the future generation of translators for the industry we want, not the industry we have.”


The Translating Europe Forum was an inspiring event for young translators. It was not only for young people, but created by young people, allowing them to talk openly about the issues they face when starting out in the industry, and also focus on the areas that are important to them like the benefits of branding and using social media, to name a few. There was even time for attendees to reflect on why they had become translators in the first place during an ‘I’m a translator because…’ tweet session, something that everyone enjoyed and felt very positive about!

This two-day conference concluded with a speech from the Director-General himself. He inspired all translators and interpreters to go forward in their career with confidence. I, for one, returned to Farnham (after a quick tour of Brussels!) feeling motivated to make positive contributions to the translation industry and to help the future generation of translators succeed!


Allison exploring Grand-Place, Brussels
Allison exploring Grand-Place, Brussels

If you would like to read more about the event, take a look at the #TranslatingEurope hashtag.


Inspired by Allison’s experience at the #TranslatingEurope Forum? Why not see what translation could do for you by requesting a quote from hello@surreytranslation.co.uk?