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My background

Me in Berlin WallI am a full-time freelance German→English translator and an active member of the American Translators Association. I recently completed an 8-year stint as president of the Northeast Ohio Translators Association, was an adjunct faculty member of Kent State University’s Institute for Applied Linguistics and a former contract linguist for the FBI.

I graduated with a double major in German and Russian from Bowling Green State University in 1992 (spent my junior year abroad in Salzburg, Austria from 1989-1990 – these photos were taken in Berlin in February 1990) and received my M.A. in German translation from Kent State University in 1995. I lived and worked in Bonn, Germany as a freelance translator and Internet researcher for six years before relocating to the U.S. (Cleveland, Ohio) in 2001.

I now work from home and am frequently overwhelmed with translation work (hence the title of this blog). Most of my work involves translating large marketing/advertising surveys and medical and IT or computer-related texts, but I also enjoy translating tourism and government-related texts. Surprisingly, I have also been translating lots of contracts lately.

Berlin Wall, February 1990I love traveling and try to visit a new city in Europe every time I go there to visit friends and clients. Next on the list are Venice and Dresden. My all-time favorite European city (besides Bonn) is Prague, followed closely by Florence and Finale Ligure on the Italian Riviera. My favorite cities in the U.S. are New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, and Niagara Falls.

When not at the computer, I enjoy reading (especially mysteries), catching up on television shows, doing water aerobics, dining out with my Meetup.com Dining Out group, organizing events for my German language Meetup.com group, and doting on my West Highland White Terrier, Lily. Our frequent walks and trips to the dog park break up the monotony of my day.

My office hours are 10 AM to 7 PM and then 11 PM to whenever the heck I feel like going to bed (usually 1 or 2 AM), with liberal breaks scattered in between for water aerobics, dinner out with friends, running errands, or Law & Order marathons. I’m a night owl, which explains the moon in the heading.

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Comments»

1. Amybeth - June 19, 2008

Welcome to the blogosphere Jill! 🙂 I look forward to reading your stuff.

2. Benny Lewis - June 27, 2008

I’ve been reading through your recent entries, it’s fantastic stuff!! You have a new enthusiastic subscriber 🙂

3. jillsommer - June 27, 2008

Thanks, Benny! I’m having an absolute ball doing this. I used to send my inane thoughts to the ATA German Language Division listserv. This gives me an outlet that offers people a choice whether or not to read my comments on things. Welcome!

4. Sarah D - July 22, 2008

Hi Jill, I’m really enjoying your posts! And it’s always great to see more translators throwing themselves on the mercy of the blogosphere 🙂 Looking forward to reading more thoughts. Sarah

5. Jennifer Lee - August 5, 2008

Hey you! Thought of you this morning on my drive in to work. I was stuck in a major traffic jam and my car almost overheated. I was sitting there in August heat in Florida with my heater cranked up to full, remembering the time we drove to Tampa in Grandma’s van (which I had just inherited) and had to do the same thing. 🙂

Sorry I’ve been so crappy about keeping in touch. You around this weekend? I’ll give you a call. Give Lily a kiss for me, and love to ALL the family.

6. translatorpower - October 8, 2008

Jill, I really love your style. You’re living proof that great translators are also (or should be) great writers :-).

Your link is on Translator Power’s list of Great Translators’ blogs! I’m sure our readers will learn a lot from your experience, while enjoying your beautiful writing style.

Thanks a lot for being such a good person.

7. Roberto Savelli - Translator's Shack - March 6, 2009

Hi Jill,

I posted a comment about your great list of tools, but it must have ended up in your spam queue as it contained some links.

8. Ofer - Tomedes Translation - March 7, 2009

Hi Jill,

As always, a pleasure reading your content.
I wonder if you will be interested in publishing guest posts.
We had written an interesting one – A freelance translator recession survival kit.

9. Michelle Rafter - April 5, 2009

Jill: I don’t have your email address anymore or I would have sent this to you privately. I wrote a blog post about people who use more than 1 Twitter account and included a comment that you’d left on my original blog post on the subject. In case you want to see it, here’s the link.

When One Twitter Account Isn’t Enough
http://bit.ly/pYcJ

Thanks,
Michelle Rafter
WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age

10. lettersfromeurope - May 1, 2009

Hi, thanks for adding us on the blogroll. I was unaware or I would have written sooner.
I have some connections to Ohio through my father.
Have a great 1st of May

11. Ellen - July 30, 2009

Just discovered your blog, and as a fellow ‘overworked’ translator(English/German/French/Danish to Dutch in more or less the same fields as you), I recognized a lot in the posts I’ve read so far. I will certainly be following you blog – it’s inspiring!

12. Pedrina - August 8, 2009

Hi from Brazil,

I’ve just discovered your blog through the post on working from home jobs. Great to know. I am a translator myself, mainly from English to (Brazilian) Portuguese.

Cheers!

13. John Duffy - August 14, 2009

Jill,
I just discovered your wit and humor for translators and beyond. I’m in both categories.
Thanks,
John Duffy

14. Catherine Howarth - October 26, 2009

Hi there, a very interesting background and a very interesting blog!

I, too, miss Germany. I did French and German at Leeds Uni, spent time at Universite Lille III before spending my year abroad in Maintal, Hessen. A fantastic year which convinced me I wanted to work in Germany after I’d graduated. I was lucky and got a job in Frankfurt/Main and spent 10 extremely happy years there.

I, too, miss Germany. Oh, I see I’ve already said that!

Not just the Volks- and Wein-feste, of which there is an abundance, as you know. The Dippemesse in Frankfurt, for example.

The Weihnachtsmarkte and yes, I do like the food!!!

I’m going back there at the end of next month and am excited about it already and have started making a shopping list already!

Good luck with your translation work and do keep us informed. It makes for good reading as well as giving you a well-deserved break!

15. Katherine Osgood - November 21, 2009

Hi Jill!

I just wanted to write and say I love your blog! I just started studying for an MA in Translation Studies (Arabic-English) and find your writing very inspiring! In fact it has inspired me to start my own blog about my journey through Arabic translation – and I added your blog to my blog roll!

Thanks for all the great insights!
Katherine Osgood

jillsommer - November 21, 2009

Thank you, Katherine. I appreciate your kind words. I’ll have to check your blog out. Good luck!

16. Michael Cox - April 26, 2010

I learned about your blog from a tweet by Tess Whitty. You have some good content which I would like to syndicate publicly. The L10NCafé has been syndicating blogs for a while now. You can see how this is done at http://l10ncafe.com/blogs. Here we have a sort of Readers Digest of what people are writing about each week in our industry.
Please email me if you are interested.

17. kevin - June 8, 2010

Hello,
I have a quick question about certified translations for USCIS. What does it take to open an agency providing certified translations for immigration?
I used to work at an agency and we always used a raised seal and stamp for certified translations. is that just a formality? or it is necessary? what give someone the right to use that seal? do i need a license, or i can just order it online and use it? Finally, when a translation is going to USCIS, does the translator have to be ATA certified, or it could be anybody off the street?

jillsommer - June 8, 2010

Hi Kevin,

Sorry, I have no idea. I go to a notary public and get it notarized. The U.S. doesn’t have an official seal and being ATA certified is not a qualification for providing certified translations. If you find out please let us know.

jillsommer - June 8, 2010

Maybe this older post will help answer some of your questions: https://translationmusings.com/2008/11/24/certified-translations-truth-or-myth/

18. Angela - August 19, 2010

Hi, Jill!

I have just discovered your blog. I stumbled into a translation career (German and Russian into English, both US and UK) about a year and a half ago. I never meant to stay in this field for very long (wanted to do a masters in conference interpreting, but couldn’t afford the tuition), but am now mulling over the idea of becoming a technical translator because I actually really enjoy it! I will definitely be coming back to your blog — I think I can learn a lot from you. Keep up the inspiring work!

19. Kelly - August 29, 2010

Hi,
I just discovered your blog and I have to say that I am truly enjoying it. As an aspiring translator (I’m still in school…), I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind telling me, in the average month (and I know that jobs vary but I’m trying to get a respectable figure) How much money you actually make from translating? It seems like people do really well in this business but I’m curious what a seasoned translator actually pulls in nowadays. Thank you very much and I expect to enjoy reading the rest of your blog!

Jill (@bonnjill) - August 29, 2010

Well, Kelly, I try to earn $4,000 a month and consider it a good month when I make over that (I generally do). One translator I know earns $6000-9000 a month, but she doesn’t go out much. I try to get a good work/life balance…

20. Tony Pulle (Facebook) - September 4, 2010

Hello Jill
Thanks for your blog. I live in Freiburg/Germany with some months each year in Nerja/Spain. I found your blog while ‘researching’ St Jerome and was able to confirm the Moses/Horn story. Are there similar mis-translations with an interesting story.There are 4 known remembrances to St Thomas Becket, I have located 3, Soria/Es, Freiburg/DE and Bologna/IT, the other being Salamanca. Do you know of any others.
Regards – Tony

21. Paula Brugger - September 18, 2010

Hi Jill! I was googling topics such as health insurance for translators and came across your website. I love it! I love how you described your schedule.

22. Mary Renaud - December 12, 2010

This is a very interesting blog…..

23. Kristyn Shreve - April 12, 2011

Hey Jill! I tried emailing you that video of my dad at the translation lecture but it told me that your email address was no longer in use. I have posted the video along with some photos on my Picasa account at: https://picasaweb.google.com/kshreve2 I could not figure out how to flip the video right side up but I think you can do it when you put it into your blog.

24. Eldridge Reinboth - May 18, 2011

Hi,I just discovered your blog and I have to say that I am truly enjoying it. As an aspiring translator (I’m still in school…), I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind telling me, in the average month (and I know that jobs vary but I’m trying to get a respectable figure) How much money you actually make from translating? It seems like people do really well in this business but I’m curious what a seasoned translator actually pulls in nowadays. Thank you very much and I expect to enjoy reading the rest of your blog!
+1

Jill (@bonnjill) - May 18, 2011

I’ve heard quotes range from $40,000-100,000. I guess it all depends on how busy you are, who your clients are (agencies vs. direct clients) and how much you charge.

25. tehsin from Kuala Lumpur (malay translator) - September 10, 2011

Hi,

Interesting background indeed 🙂 Law and Order is just so addictive…hehe…hope you could open an fb page and link your updates..easier to catch up…your blog and your blogroll are really great!

26. lydiastrong - September 16, 2011

Dear Jill,

what a great find your blog is! I have just subscribed to follow you after registering on wordpress for the first time. I am a freelance translator from London, UK and I have been procrastinating about creating a blog for years now:) Finally the need to have it outweighed my laziness and fear; now I need to fill my blog with info and posts. Was just looking around wordpress for inspiration – thank you for your informative and entertaining blog! Looking forward to new posts,

My best wishes

Lydia Strong

27. Michelle A. Mead-Armor - November 19, 2011

Just finished my column for the local paper, and indulging myself with some internet surfing. Found your website, and thought I’d leave you a message. Alive and well and living in Highlands, North Carolina with my two very spoiled cats, Orion and Weasie. My precious husband, John, died 15 months ago from complications following colon cancer surgery. Hope all’s well with you, and that life is treating you kindly.
Warmest wishes, Michelle Mead-Armor

28. Mary W. - December 3, 2011

I have to say that as a new translator, I’ve read these ideas to keep rates standard 100 times but find it very difficult to find any work at all if I can’t show I have much experience in any field yet. Does anyone have a good strategy of how to hunt for potential jobs (besides proZ.com)? I thought working for one agency and showing them that I could complete a quality translation would be an effective way to start and yet I finished a large project for my first employer and am now questioning whether I’ll be paid a dime for it or anything I’ve done since. Other translation agencies do not seem to be interested once they find out I have limited knowledge of a trial version of a CAT tool and have only offered small and sporadic work so I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. Do you seasoned translators have any suggestions?

29. Michelle Mead-Armor - December 6, 2011

Wish I could help you on that one. I did my first long, serious translation recently since I moved to Western North Carolina (18 pages of legal) for people in town who are selling their house in France. They emailed me the document, and later (when I ran into them socially) when I wouldn’t translate it on the spot, gave me a dirty look and said, “Oh, well, I guess we’ll have to pay you for this, huh?” I replied, “I don’t work for free; do you?” My ex-husband, who freelances now, but used to work for the UN, says that because of this, he never deals with individuals, only companies and agencies. Other folks don’t respect what we do. Most people have no idea how difficult translation is, and what it takes. Good luck! It’s always hard to get respect when you’re just starting out, especially in these times.

30. Martha - December 6, 2011

That’s depressing. Did they think that because you ran into them outside of your office it somehow wouldn’t involve work on your part? I have a friend who works as an artist (successfully; I’m sure it’s not easy!) and she said that people ask her to make them free things all the time, as if she has all day to work for free. I think you’re right that people not familiar with translation assume it’s nearly automatic. Thank you for your post! I appreciate the support.:)

Michelle Mead-Armor - December 31, 2011

Martha,

Just wanted to let you know that they paid up – exactly what I asked for and quickly, too. I was very pleased – and a bit surprised.

I was gratified that, even though I hadn’t translated anything legal in several years, I wasn’t half bad at it.

All the best to all of you for a very happy and healthy New Year!

31. Jonathan GOLDBERG - January 26, 2012

Would you be kind enough to add my blog to your blog list :
http://www.Le-mot-juste-en-anglais.com

You can judge for yourself the standard of the articles and the frequency of postings.

Many thanks,
Jonathan Goldberg

32. tłumacz angielskiego - May 25, 2012

With all that experience and knowledge you have it’s a real pity that you receive so few orders. I could dream of such credentials, still I’m quite busy with Polish-English translations. Maybe the market differs so significatly in our countries…

33. Annette Cyrkel - August 15, 2012

Hi Jill, I too work from DE>ENG and am a member of ATA and the GLD where I’ve seen you posta couple of times. I’m an ’84 Rutgers Grad and got my certification through NYU. I now live and work freelance in Orlando, Fl. I’m not too busy right now, but things should pick up soon! Happy Day!

34. englishandportuguese - October 31, 2012

Hi Jill. I am a Brazilian Portuguese English translator and I have been scanning translation blogs for ideas. Just a quick word to compliment your blog. I love that you have a session on what projects you’ve been working on. I think that is an excellent idea and I’ll implement it on my blog too. I shall be coming back!

35. Sara - March 22, 2013

Please tell me why you like Finale Ligure so much. I am very curious about it! Greetings from Italy!

Jill (@bonnjill) - March 22, 2013

We stayed at the Vuillermin Castle Hostel, which overlooks the Blue Coast and had some wonderful meals in the city (I specifically remember a tortellini dish that was divine). We had a great time wandering the streets. I just found it to be a great place and have fond memories of it (then again, my memories are from almost 25 years ago, so…).


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