Partners in translation: why you need a translation buddy¬ and how to find one


Even though you might love flying solo, you need a flock of like-minded translators to support you through your journey. Forming strong professional bonds is an investment in your growth. Not only that, a safe space where you can be frank about your struggles and successes is beneficial for your mental health and can lead to a greater job satisfaction.

And every flock begins with one bird, one reliable translation buddy you entrust with sharing your path. Just like any successful partnership hinges on respect and shared values, a strong professional union is grounded in honesty and compatibility. While it’s easy to fall victim to the fiercely competitive job market dominated by the individual rather than the collective, a work confidante you respect, get along with, and can trust with work projects can accelerate your success and improve well-being.

Here’s why every translator needs a buddy, and how you can find one:

1. Because you will need a change at some point.

Your freelance translation business might be at its nascency, or you might be handling your full-time workload with ease. Chances are, your client base will keep expanding as you get established in your field. With economic volatility, unforeseen shifts in translation trends, and your ever-evolving values and priorities, a professional safety net can provide the much needed sense of security and internal peace. No matter where you see yourself in five years—at the helm of a global translation firm, supporting a few select clients, or exploring a completely new territory—you will need a trusted partner to help you navigate change.  

2. Two minds are better than one. Imagine if you could tackle many of your translation hurdles with a reliable partner. Or have a trusted buddy to offer advice and a fresh set of eyes to review your work. In a creative, often monotonous field such as translation, you almost can’t do without an outside perspective to get out of translator’s blocks.

4. Learning from others is just as valuable (if not more) as reading professional development books. Experience and failure, when shared with others, can offer just as much insight into the profession as workshops and textbooks. If you find someone you can open up to without any fears of being judged, they can help you overcome from any career impasses.

5. Do it for your social and mental well-being. Translation can be an isolating profession, especially if you work from home with little to no contact with the outside world. Even if you hold an office job, most likely you spend your days communicating with a computer rather than humans. Forming strong relationships with a work partner will enhance your feeling of connection and belonging.

6. You will learn to work in a team environment. Collaboration and team work are currently in high demand in the workplace. As translators, we are often surrounded by professionals who have a very vague idea of how we operate. In many cases, you might be the sole translator on a team. Working with a buddy might help brush up your team work and project management skills.

One of the best ways to form a trusting and lasting professional partnership is by investing your time and effort into finding your people. Many diverse people co-exist under the unifying umbrella of translation and interpreting—by attending as many professional development events, conferences, and workshops, you will increase your chances of finding a true translation buddy.

Sidekick to your passions: why translation should be more than a job

What drove you to become a translator? Love of languages? Passion for intercultural communication? Or maybe an inherent flair for sifting through synonyms and finding one that’s just right? For many of us, it’s the profession’s agility and vastness that are most alluring, rewarding, and unique: the ability to pair translation or interpreting up with any of your passions, vocations, hobbies, or areas of expertise.

Think of translation as a universal soldier – a multi-tool that is not only a fascinating and fast-evolving field in itself, but is also a match to your interests; a sidekick to your grand ideas; a lifetime supporter of whatever forces you out of bed in the morning.

Along with the usual pairings—technical translation, court interpreting, medical translation, and translation of fiction—what other domains could benefit from linguistic diversity? More importantly, how can translation complement and enhance your life outside work?

The path to finding how translation can serve you lies within. You have to ask yourself how the unique professional skills you’ve mastered over years translate into your life at large—and find your unique pairing.

What do you like most about translation or interpreting? Is it doing background research? Editing your first draft? Since both translation and interpreting involve multiple stages and rely on diverse skills, you might gravitate towards one facet of the profession over another. While you might not have the luxury of pushing aside your least favourite tasks in a work environment, if translation or interpreting is more than a means of bringing home the bacon, doing what you love leads to a much deeper fulfillment.

What are you passionate about outside of work? In other words, what would you do on a Saturday morning if you had nothing planned? Listen to your authentic self and take some time to ponder this question. Discovering what truly makes you happy—trends, peer pressure, and money aside—is instrumental to leading a happy life. Next step is prioritizing your hobbies to identify those you’re most keen on nurturing.

Find your unique mix. Now that you’ve taken some time to single out your biggest passions, pair them up with what you love about translation or interpreting. There can­­—and should be—an overlap between professional and personal lives, the middle ground that marries your vocation with hobbies, causes you support, ideas worth sharing. As a result of this unique mix bearing your name, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds—fueling your passions with your expertise in translation or interpreting.

Among many perks of being a translator or interpreter, your ability to spread ideas across cultures and continents, educate, and shape the way we relate to each other will always apply to anything you do outside business hours. Are you passionate about hockey? Video games? Cooking? Start a bilingual blog where you share your favourite recipes; comment on the translation of video games; teach hockey terminology in your second language. When you use your skills as a translator or interpreter to give your hobbies a kick and your ideas a voice, you will create a greater level of satisfaction in what you do all while elevating your career and advancing your interests.

Preparing for, and passing, the Code of Ethics exam.

The Code of Ethics exam is just around the corner, March 9th to be exact, and if you are just as nervous as I was, keep on reading.

I always become very stressed out about writing exams; I try to avoid them at all costs.  However, sometimes they are unavoidable such as the Code of Ethics (C of E) exam you need to take if you want to become a member of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta (ATIA) and eventually a certified Translator/Interpreter.  I was especially nervous about this exam since the passing rate is below 50 percent. Many people I talked to failed this exam the first time, and sometimes the second time as well.

The exam I wrote (it is subject to be revised and changed by the Association at regular intervals!) consisted of 20 questions with multiple choice answers.  The passing mark is 80 percent which means you can have only four incorrect answers.  Each question will give you a specific scenario, and from there you have to form your answer. You will have a limited amount of time to write this exam.

I am very fortunate to have passed this exam the first time!  I am not gloating about it—ok, maybe a little—but the message is:  If I can do it, you can too!

How did I prepare for it?  A month or so before the exam I started reading the C of E every single morning as I sipped my first cup of London Fog.  I took notes, and I became very familiar with its content.

I also took the webinar? that was offered by ATIA, and I have to say this was extremely helpful.  It allowed me to think about the rules and regulations of the C of E from a different perspective.  Since the webinar was live, we were able to have discussions, questions, and exercises.  The week following the webinar, I reviewed the exercises we did and the reasoning behind the answers.

When it finally came time to write the exam, I knew I was prepared and felt confident.  Of course, once I sat down to write the exam my heart started to pound loudly, my mouth was extremely dry, my vision became blurry, and my mind was completely blank.  After a few minutes, I regained my composure and proceeded to write the exam.  I found most of the questions straightforward and the ones I had doubt about, I left blank to come back to afterward.  When writing this exam, it’s important to always think of the question in reference to the C of E and not just what you imagine the correct response should be.  Once I finished, I went back and made sure I had answered all the questions and quickly reviewed the answers.

If you are writing the C of E on March 9th, start reading it every day now, take notes, and become very familiar with it. Invest in the webinar?because it can be the deciding factor on passing this exam.  Once you are there writing the exam, take a deep breath and trust that you are prepared to pass this exam, and answer well.

Good luck!  I know you can do it!

???Paulina Ponsford was born in Chile and has lived most of her adult life in Canada.  She worked as an Accountant for thirty years in the Oil and Gas industry in Calgary.  At the same time, she always wanted to connect with people at a different level and for this reason, she became a volunteer Fitness Instructor and later on a Certified Facilitator in the area of human interaction.  Paulina is now preparing to become a Translator and Interpreter in the languages of English and Spanish.  Paulina also loves to travel and embraces what different cultures have to offer.  She is also an avid reader and some of her favorite authors are Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini, Mark Mustian, and Isabel Allende.  If you would like to know more about Paulina, check out her blog at where she shares some of her thoughts, insights, and experiences.  

5 Belated New Year’s resolutions, a translator’s edition

While you might have already committed to crushing personal goals, there’s still time to shine light on your professional persona and zero in on the path you’d like to pave for yourself this year. No matter how many hours a week you dedicate to translation, setting the right goals will help you advance your career. Before jotting down what will be your game plan for the next 300 something days, look back and notice the direction you’ve chosen for yourself and your career, and map out a plan that will strengthen and challenge it.

As translators, not only are we striving for linguistic excellence, but we are also following the trends and rapid changes in this fast-evolving profession. Before settling on your goals, think deeply and look widely. Apart from building up your technical skills in translation, what other related areas can bolster your career? What habits and routines will not only make you excel in your field, but also stretch your thinking?

  1. Read more. In all the languages you understand. It goes without saying that reading is one of the most important contributors to a strong, rich, and versatile vocabulary. However, picking up a few thick books and setting a deadline to finish them might seem quiet daunting. Reading for 20 minutes every day sounds a lot more realistic. And if you’re looking for an extra challenge, pick books in different languages.
  2. Befriend like-minded people. And by like-minded we mean fellow translators. Resolve to expand your professional network and meet new people who are as devoted to translation and languages as you. Not only that but who also share similar values and work ethics. Although we often focus on the quantity of connections, finding the people who truly value you proves much more valuable.
  3. Invest in workshops, seminars, and mentoring opportunities. Translators can live in silos, secluded in their offices, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside life. As a result of this almost solitary lifestyle, they might miss out on exchanging ideas. This year, commit to attending a professional seminar or signing up for a mentorship opportunity. Most professional organizations host a plethora of events throughout the year or even offer mentorship programs.
  4. Explore creative ways to use your skills. Challenge yourself to go beyond your regular contracts and jobs. How else can you put your technical skills to good use? Think of marrying your passions and hobbies with the expertise you developed as a translator. Are you passionate about technology? Why not running a blog about translating terminology in your field?
  5. Volunteer. Give back to the community. Pass on your passions. Share your talents. Find meaningful and rewarding ways to use your translation skills. Apart from volunteering as a translator, there are many other avenues you could explore as a fluent speaker of at least two languages: teaching foreign languages or poetry, bilingual art programs, and writing.

As you iron out your commitments, make sure they truly speak to you. Even if your professional path might seem murky, look back at the decisions you made in the past, your priorities, and lessons learned—they will help shed light on where you’re headed.


Five essential skills to help forge a successful career in translation

You might be a word nerd, a polyglot, or a self-proclaimed linguist – does this mean you were born a translator? Nurturing the passion for languages and translation along with developing the required technical skills lay the foundation for a potential career in translation. Strengthening certain personality traits and forming the right habits are just as important. Talent alone won’t sustain you through the ups and downs of the business, pages of monotonous texts, memorizing terminology, or dealing with pesky clients. Your innate aptitude for languages needs strong companions to transform a gift into a rewarding career in translation.

Patience. There’s nothing more daunting than an 80-page technical specification. Filled with terms and formulas only engineers can decipher, the document might not be your first choice of a book. Yet it ended up in your inbox awaiting your time, brain energy, and words. Translation is not always about high-flown lexicon and elegant sentence structures; oftentimes, the source texts you’ll be getting from clients will be dry, complex, technical, or incomprehensible. Unless you hand-pick projects to take on, you need to build up your patience to power through pages of jargon you’d never use outside your work!

A patient translator practices self-patience: rather than giving up or flipping out every time you can’t find the right translation of a term. Give yourself another chance. Slow down and let your brain do its magic.

Creativity. Language can be a great means for creative expression. Rich and diverse, organized and agile, language offers all the right elements to put your thoughts on paper, the right way. The real challenge many translators face is not feeding creative juices when working on a poem or novel, but finding creativity in the mundane: a legal document, a scholarly article, the infamous technical specification. Even in times of regulations, amendments, and guidelines, find room for creativity in your choice of words. Think of new ways to translate similar sentences, research synonyms or idioms to expand your linguistic repertoire.

Precision. Also known as language surgeons, translators pick texts apart, channel them through their brains, and puzzle the pieces back together to convey the exact meaning of the source text in a new language. Strive for precision when transforming a text or selecting a verb among various synonyms; when looking for a corresponding expression or idiom in the target language; when deciding on a language structure.

Curiosity. There’s always something to learn from the texts your clients send you. Find one (or more) things that you love about law or business, medicine or engineering. Immerse yourself in the text, look beyond the language, and absorb new information. As a translator, you’re probably consumed by the intricacies of your language pair, leaving behind everything and anything that won’t help you deliver a high-quality product. While playing with language might be your bread and butter, don’t turn a blind eye to new information that your clients graciously present to you.

Optimism. As with anything in life, positive disposition can brighten gloomy days and bring joy to any text you’re translating. Remember, even the longest technical specification has an end and take pride in having seen all of your contracts to fruition!