Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Frequently asked questions about translating

A recent ProZ forum thread discussed sticky topics to answer questions asked time and again—often by newcomers who aren't aware that countless past discussions and advice on their query can be accessed by searching the forums. (I discuss this specific one here but of course it occurs in virtually every internet forum, discussion group, bulletin board, etc.)

The example cited was "How do I convert a PDF to Word/How do I translate a PDF with Trados/How do I count the words in a PDF?"

It started me thinking: what questions are in this category? IMO:

1. How can I work with PDF files?
2. How can I get translation (or interpretation) jobs?
3. How much should I charge? How can I get paid?
4. What about TRADOS?
5. Can you believe how little they're offering for translation job XXX?

#1 as above.

#2 is often asked by recent graduates in the field who find that their theoretical preparation assumes the text. For the first time, they're faced with the step that precedes it; namely the search for the text and the need for it to be translated. Also sometimes asked by those with different backgrounds who, having been asked to do one translation, discover that translation is such a good fit for them that they would like to do more. Another category, which can intersect with either of the above, is those who would like to translate a book and wonder how to market the translation to a publisher.

Some variants of #3 include those who are setting up their business, those who've been asked to do a task which varies significantly from what they have done in the past, and those who find themselves asked to translate or interpret for the first time. Payment issues break down into two broad categories; forms of payment (especially international methods of transferring funds), and extracting payment due from a reluctant payer.

#4 includes those who wonder what a CAT tool is and what it's good for, those who have an idea but wonder whether it's worthwhile for them, and those who've just been faced with their first request for a discount for repetitions or a client-provided memory. And of course asking the question in that form presupposes that TRADOS is the only CAT tool (which it isn't, only the most hyped one).

#5, unlike the questions that precede it, is rhetorical, and asked more often by veterans, who know what a proper rate of payment is.

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