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Sharing What I Do as a Translator February 25, 2011

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Translation.

Fabio from Fidus Interpres just published a blog post with the exact same title as this one on his blog based on an exchange he had with another translator on LinkedIn to “exchange infos about each other, explaining what we do so that maybe we can be an interesting resource for each other in future translation & localization projects.” Instead of writing an extensive comment on his blog I thought I would take a page from his playbook and share what I do here. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I invite other bloggers to do the same on their blogs. I think it will be fun to learn a little bit about each other.

Like Fabio, I very rarely outsource jobs, and if I do I rely on translators who I have met in person or have worked with successfully in the past. However, as Fabio said, you never know if one of your clients may need someone with a skill set that matches that of one of your colleague’s.

I have been translating (and proofreading) from German into English (American English) since 1995.

Most of my customers are translation agencies in the United States and Europe (usually Germany but occasionally Switzerland, England or Austria). I worked for the FBI as a contract linguist for about four years, and now work for several agencies with government contracts. I do not work for the larger translation agencies. I find the smaller agencies appreciate my skills more and are more willing to pay my rates. I prefer to work for agencies that value me and respect me as a professional.

I have a Master’s degree in Translation from Kent State and lived for six years in Bonn, Germany and one year in Salzburg, Austria. My time living abroad helped me not only become extremely fluent, but also gave me the cultural knowledge one needs to be a successful translator. I also have a working knowledge of Russian, which sometimes helps me translate documents that have been uncovered in the former Eastern Bloc countries for my agencies with government contracts.

I specialize in documents in the fields of medical and computer. I love translating medical reports, medical documents for insurance and pension claims, FTP manuals, computer games, mobile phone apps and games, and anything and everything software-related. I taught myself HTML back in 1995 and have taught web design for the translation students at Kent State, so I have a deep love for Geekspeak and the Internet. I have also been known to translate legal documents relating to Nazi hunting, Internet fraud, witness statements and interviews, police reports, legal claims, and the occasional contract. I proofread a lot of the police reports related to the 9/11 hijackers who lived in Germany back in 2001 and 2002. I am not a big fan of personal documents (birth certificates, letters of reference, school transcripts, genealogical documents), but I translate them when a client asks me. I also translate I also translate responses for market research surveys, so this means not only am I a fast translator since the deadlines are often tight and the word counts are high but I am also very good as deciphering the most terrible misspellings and typos you can imagine. I am also very, very good at formatting Word and WordPerfect files cleanly (I set a tab where I need it instead of using tabs and spaces to get there) and making them look almost like a mirror image of the original.

I’m not arrogant to claim that I am the best translator out there, but I am good at what I do and my clients are very happy with my results. If you have complicated, high-falutin’ German that sounds like it comes from an ivory tower or need the translation to sound like poetry I’m probably not your girl. But if you need to know what the text says, it needs to be conveyed clearly and sound good, and you need it to mirror the original I’m the one to call.

I do not translate financial, chemistry, patent, or technical texts. If I read a text and don’t understand it I will turn the job down and most likely be able to recommend someone more than capable of handling the text. I have built a very good network of contacts on both sides of the ocean. I recently helped a client find a German to French translator by recommending three excellent colleagues who I know from living in Bonn.

I also do not translate into German. German grammar is too complicated for a non-native speaker who was not exposed to it from a young age, and it takes me too long to translate into my non-native tongue.

Now, how about you? Would you like to tell us about your translation background (specialization, experience, likes and dislikes)?



1. Language Translation Services - February 28, 2011

I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

2. Katherine Osgood - March 9, 2011

Thanks for the insight Jill! As a translation student, I’m always curious about the daily lives of professional translators!

3. Professional Expert Translators - November 15, 2012

love to hear from professional translator. as a translator i think german is kind of complicated but i am pretty good at it. thanks for sharing your story with us.

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