Archives pour la catégorie Dream Job

20/20 in fingers

25 mai 2011 5 commentaires

The human being needs to compare to its peers, to classify and categorize. He needs hierarchy to fight anarchy and be reassured. Human societies force us to constantly show our mettle.

Throughout life, we are watched by others. It begins in the womb, just to be sure that you look like something human. Then when you’re born, your parents count your twenty fingers. At school, teachers want you to have 10/10 in math (don’t worry if you have a little less, it’s not as important as fingers). And then in high school, college, exams, etc… And it’s not over yet.

Translation is no different. Our work is scanned and criticism is fierce when quality standards are not met. Praise, even deserved, are much less spontaneous.

Some outsourcers can go really far and treat their colleagues as students, not equals. Think about those translation agencies school-like evaluation systems, by awarding marks to translators for each project. The final mark is an average based on criteria such as the use of appropriate terminology, compliance with instructions, layout, etc. Others are less objective, such as a turn of phrase. If the mark is good, don’t expect a word. But beware if you supposedly failed!

Anyway, I really don’t think it’s the best way to tell who’s good enough and who’s not.

I’ve been confronted to more or less justified remarks several times during my (still short) career. If I generally accept them well enough (as a way to improve), the last time, it hurt more than it should have. I can see several reasons:

  • On the principle: it’s never nice to hear that your work isn’t entirely satisfying, and the nature rather exceptional makes it even more significant.
  • On the form: an single line email sent by a manager, like some heavies coming out of nowhere to pack your stuff in a cardboard box and showing you the way out. Attached to this email was a document compiling tactless and hurting comments about my work, probably written by the mischievous spirit of a reviewer who got out on the wrong side of the bed.
  • Also, the stark lack of right to reply. Here, the translator is not involved in the review process, as it may be the case in some other agencies or international organizations. It is therefore impossible to justify your choices and defend your work. The all-powerful agency does not tolerate dissent.

So what reaction should you adopt in this situation? There are several scenarios:

  1. Criticisms are justified. Don’t worry (easier said than done) and try to understand what happened. Maybe you were tired, overwhelmed or working on a text you didn’t like…. Take the comments into account, thank the proofreader and avoid making the same mistakes again. You may want to start a glossary for this client or hang on your wall the things you should remember for the next project. Also, take some time off; accidents happen, and a little rest can often fix things.
  2. Criticisms are not justified. You are sure your work is good and that the proofreader has some kind of a grudge against you? Pick up your phone (or go to the agency, if possible) for a real discussion. Be very tactful, or you might lose a source of income: try not to stubbornly reject everything, give concrete examples and use reliable resources. If this is impossible, perhaps it is time to find a more accommodating client. Whatever happens, never cry foul, it’s never a good thing.
  3. Some is justified and some isn’t. The solution is in both points above.

In any case, act like a professional. Try to get detailed comments, be objective, acknowledge your mistakes and fight for your choices. Feedback should help you move forward, not convince you that this job isn’t made for you.

If you have faced criticism too, please share your experience and reaction in the comments below.


(Thanks to Vanessa and Magali, who helped be with this post)

Trick or Mistreats?

14 avril 2011 4 commentaires

As some of you already know, I went through the Great European Adventure (just like Les Piles). I may write an extensive report someday (for the moment I’m just being very impatient for the results coming in June). Meanwhile, some colleagues convinced me to write this post.

I’m not sure I’m authorized to publish the Italian text used for the French translation test at EPSO, which I found on the web. I can at least tell you that it was originally published in R2 Diario supplement to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. On D-Day,  various candidates including me noticed a typo in the Italian source text. The second instance of a proper name had a letter changed. Or maybe was it La Repubblica’s Thomson and Thompson.

The thing is that this typo doesn’t exist in the original article.


So, honest mistake or intentional trick? I can’t imagine some European official retyping all the test texts just to have a standard layout when copy-paste is so easy. It is thus a typo added, intentionally or not, to the article. Would it be a new method to assess our concentration skills?

Just to be sure, I added a translator’s note at the end of my paper to point the typo.

So what do you think? Careless mistake or real trick?


Working Vacations Return

3 février 2011 2 commentaires

You probably remember that I went on a working vacation last year, as suggested by Translating Berlin. So I went for more than two months in the USA and Canada to improve my English skills and culture, visit the region and keep on working with my regular clients. The recipe was so great that I decided to do it one more time. With a slight difference this year:

Destination: Barcelona, Spain
Duration: Two months
Accomodation: Sub-let room in a shared flat
Goal: Learn Spanish (and not Catalan)

To be completely honest, I am not a total beginner in Spanish. Not only my knowledge in French and Italian are helping, but I also took some Spanish lessons a while back, though I don’t have a working knowledge yet.

I will thus be staying in full immersion Catalano-Castilian through cursos de conversación at Don Quijote’s and linguistic and cultural exchange with indigenous. On the cultural side, my week-ends should take me to Montserrat Monastery, Girona and Tarragona, as well as a night at Camp Nou (purely professional, of course).

So stay tuned for more information!


Translating, Peace of Cake!

18 janvier 2011 17 commentaires

These last weeks, I met a few students and professional who wanted to know more about free-lance translation. I usually tell them about the many pros and the few cons, about the extras, but most of all, I tell them about my daily life.

They would ask « How do you manage to get up in the morning? Isn’t it hard to be on your own 24/7? What’s your typical lunch? »

Well, here it is:

And this one was balanced!

For those who still relish to eat all alone in front of the midday TV news, there’s another option that I haven’t tried yet: colunching.

You probably know about coworking, which allows authors and translators to work and meet in a shared space. Well, the colunching was created in France a few months ago. The main website is, but you’d better go on their dynamic facebook page. The idea is pretty simple: you book a seat on a table shared by 8 colunchers max, and there you go, meeting new people over a nice meal!

Be sure to share your colunching experiences or your lunch-tray photos!

And – cherry on the cake - we wish you a great and happy New Year on NJATB!


Just do it

10 novembre 2010 7 commentaires

A few days ago, I was writing about commercial translations such as in Calvin Klein TV ad or Levi’s posters in the Parisian subway. I was largely inspired by Les Piles‘ blogpost. I couldn’t find that Levi’s ad (maybe I don’t go out often enough), but I stumbled upon another phenomenom that I wanted to share here.

This time, the culprit is Nike, though I must say that the translation is not that bad:

Lâche ton run (which means… well, not much in French, but literaly « Release your run »), with the everpresent little star and the so-called translation: Lâche toi, cours ( something like « Work off, run »). Well, for once, I have to admit that I largerly prefer the translation over this bad pseudo-catchy frenglish phrase.

What about you? Do you think it really works?


You’ve got a cute quill, ya know

29 octobre 2010 1 commentaire

It seems that French translator-bloggers are quite occupied these days, we don’t give you much to read in French. Hopefully, English bloggers are more loquacious.

Anyway, have you heard of Terra Eco? It’s a French magazine and website about ecology and sustainable living. Recently, they launched the initiative « responsible readers », where everyone can act to help create a better greener world. Well, you’ll be happy to learn that Terra Eco is now looking for French volunteer translators « with a deft pen », from a variety of languages. I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get some experience.

Also, please meet my new baby: he’s name’s Robin and he already travels around the world. If you’re 6-year-old (or really tired), you can read his adventures : Robin et les Pirates. I don’t earn any royalties, but enjoy!


24 septembre 2010 0 commentaire

After 2 long months of silence, here I am again. Blame it on the sun, the rain, the work and maybe also on my lack of inspiration, but I’m back.

In the French version of this post, as pension strikes paralyse the country, I explain how pension contributions work with the auto-entreprise status.

Also, some great reads about translation and movies (sorry, 2 out of the 3 links are French only):

  • On, you’ll learn why movie titles change in France (how Youth in Revolt became Be Bad and why Toy Story isn’t Une histoire de jeux)
  • On Slate (.com this time), a fascinating video-article on how Hollywood represents foreign languages in movies (such as Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Inglourious Basterds).
  • And if you can read French, you’ll enjoy this long story about a guy who subtitled an adult movie. It’s on StreetPress.

At last, we French speakers have now our Urban Dictionary. It’s called la Parlure, and even if it’s still a little empty (and most of all Canadian French), it’s a great initiative.

Summer News

21 juillet 2010 0 commentaire

Not much news this summer, but let me just tell you three things:

  1. You can now apply to the Open Competition of the European Commission for Translators (French and English in particular). Deadline for application is August 12 midday.
  2. The French translators’ association SFT just published its report on translation practices (in French). Lots of facts and figures you can’t miss out!
  3. Last but not least, I have finally published my Terms of Service (in French only), inspired by Corinne McKay’s book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, with the help of the SFT.

You can enjoy the sun, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Networking Vacations

23 mai 2010 1 commentaire

As I was saying in a previous post, one of the main goals of these working vacations was to improve my professional network. So I managed to be in the right place at the right time: in Québec (city) on the 7th of May for a linguists afterwork organized by the ATAMESL and in Boston on the 22nd for the 14th Annual New England Translators Association Conference.

The ATAMESL is a French association from Quebec that intends to gather independent linguists to promote networking, training and information. This afterwork, in a micro-brewery in Quebec city, was organized by Valérie Bélanger (she writes a nice blog in French too) and represented a good opportunity to meet colleagues and discuss about our jobs across the world.

Other country, other atmosphere: NETA, the New England regional version of the ATA, allows its 150 members (and me) to be listed on their online directory and to have access to trainings and practical information. The NETA Annual Conference offered various sessions: Beginning as a translator, the literary translation of Joseph Perl, an introduction to localization (by a fellow French translator, Laurence Lollier), and the « Seven-figure translator » or how to translate 1,5 million words/year by Warren Smith. This Japanese to English semiconductor patent translator (no wonder he makes a good living)  developed his own successful translation process:

  1. He first records his translation on a digital voice recorder
  2. He then has it automatically transcribed by a voice recognition software (Dragon NaturallySpeaking)
  3. Finally, he gets the cheap work (editing, reviewing) done by an intern… or his wife

Only drawback to all of this networking: only translators and interpreters attended these events, and very few potential clients (which is not the case at the ATA Annual Conference). I can just hope that the word of mouth will now spread!

When Work Meets Vacations

27 mars 2010 9 commentaires

Some time ago, after reading Sarah Vilece’s blog Translating Berlin, I decided that I wanted to go on a working vacation (not to be mixed up with vacations spent working, says Sarah). The principle is simple: I leave my everyday life for a few weeks and I continue my regular work in a different place.

I chose to go to the United States, where part of my family has a large house: I don’t have to worry about lodging or Internet access, and the place is really nice (just think about The Ghost Writer) despite the changeable weather. Here are my motivations:

  1. My main objective is to keep on working. I’ve been here for nearly a week, and it’s already been my biggest work week of 2010.
  2. I wished for a change of scenery. I love my life in Paris, but fresh air and a dose of iodine is always pleasant.
  3. I intend to practice my English, which is my main working tool, after all. I thought it needed to be refreshed.
  4. It’s a good opportunity to extend my activity on a new market: meet prospects and colleagues, attend to ATA regional conferences, etc.
  5. And, of course, a working vacation is still a vacation. It would not make sense to stay at home since I can go out, visit the ea, get some exercise, learn more about the local culture…

If you want to read more about working vacations, Sarah Vilece wrote one, two, three and four blog posts about it. Also, I discovered the CITL association can accommodate literary translators from a week to 3 months (for €20/day).

What about you? Could you go on WV or would you fear to procrastinate too much?

Translators’ Must-Reads

22 février 2010 13 commentaires

With each passing day, I’m amazed by the power of Twitter. I had already used it to get an idea of the typical translator’s desk, and it did not fail me either when I tried to list the essential readings for translators. Ever wondered what books you should have on your bookshelves? Here are 20 books chosen by translators, for translators. (You can also check the (other) « 20 Best Books for Language Lovers » on the website

Back to basics:
-In French:

-In English:

Develop your activity and skills:
-Learn how to proofread and manage projects in French:

-Some marketing tips in English:

-Productivity and personal development:

Your special bonus (if you can read French): two three novels on translation

(Thanks to Wendy, Katerina, Nad, Blandine, Clémence, Valérie, Corinne, François, Céline, Fanny, Eve and Chloé)