To celebrate the upcoming International Translation Day, we reached out to translators to find out about their very first translation project – the ultimate #ThrowbackThursday. Let’s find out what stories they had to tell…
#myfirstranslation is hard to forget. I had just graduated and started working as an in-house translator for a translation agency in the north-east of England. I couldn’t fault the training. I was taught about in-house style, client preferences, quality awareness and, of course, how to use Trados (the Workbench 2007 version at the time, but we soon upgraded to Studio 2009). All of my translations were reviewed by one of two senior translators, who provided excellent feedback on terminology, register, style and the like.
And almost right away I was assigned my first translation…a 10,000-word maintenance manual for a bottle-washing machine from German to English. In a scanned PDF (no Trados!). Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! But I don’t think there’s any better way to learn. It taught me how to do my own terminology research and I remember finding some fantastic online resources that I still use to this day.
I hadn’t really been exposed to technical German until that point. I can tell you, it’s very different from the German you study at university. I knew German was renowned for its compound nouns, but I don’t think I had seen any that long until then. One thing that struck me in particular was how German uses the passive more than English. For example, the manual would say ‘the screw is inserted’ in German, whereas in English we would be more direct and say ‘insert the screw’.
I now specialise in business and marketing texts rather than technical, but I can still picture those bottle-washing machine diagrams vividly.
I remember the day I started out as a translator, about seven years ago now. While I was doing some other work as a copywriter and editor as well, I found a client who was looking for an English to Dutch translation. He required a CAT tool, and fresh and green as I was, I thought I could do it without one. However, I was unable to open the TTX file in a normal editor and ended up using a trial version of TagEditor. I was impressed by the time gain, efficiency and consistency it offered but doubted whether it was worth the money.
The next day I bought Trados Studio 2009 and got TagEditor for free. It was the start of a successful business and I can certainly recommend investment in a CAT tool, no matter what the prospects are at the time of investing. That approach is still the foundation of my business: just do it – calculate your risks but dare to dive into an unknown depth.
My translation career started when I was a third-year student at KRSU University, Department of the English Language and Intercultural Communications, Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic. I thought that I already acquired relevant knowledge and skills to join a translation agency as a freelance translator. I sent my humble resume to several agencies. Of course, 90% of them did not want to work with a student, but one of them decided to give me a chance. I should note that I took a technical translation course at the time, and I decided to dedicate all my time and efforts to this field of expertise.
As you might have already guessed, my first translation job was about technical stuff. In fact, it was an English-Russian translation of several material safety data sheets for a mining company. I received a good feedback from the agency’s editor and that’s how I started my way in translation. Two years later, when I graduated from the university, I was hired by another mining company and worked as an in-house technical translator for almost 4 years. Choosing technical translations as my main specialization was a wise decision. Technology rules the world and if you want to be in demand – choose a niche in technical translations.
My first translation as a freelance translator was a marriage certificate from the Dominican Republic. I was just about to launch my business, and there was a fellow translation colleague who lived near me who gave me lots of great advice for starting up. She sent me the certificate to translate from Spanish into English and, fortunately, was there to answer any uncertainties I had. The end client was happy with the work, and I’m now much more comfortable with translations in this field!
My first translation was certainly memorable for a whole host of reasons! I met Spanish football expert Guillem Balagué by chance at passport control at Luton Airport in June 2013 and struck up a conversation about my unsuccessful application to work for him the previous year, I could only have imagined in my wildest dreams that it would lead to working on a book project just three months later. I got a phone call on a Thursday evening asking if I was available to translate 12,000 words from Spanish into English by Monday as part of Guillem’s Messi book and immediately said yes. As an Arsenal fan, the fact that the first paragraph of the chapter was about Barcelona narrowly beating the Gunners in the 2006 Champions League final was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, but I didn’t let myself get too hung up on it and ploughed on. I managed to meet my first deadline in the translation industry and it would prove to be the start of my dream career as a football translator and interpreter! I certainly haven’t complained about a long queue at passport control ever since!
At the time I got my first localization project, I would have never considered translation as a career option. I was a web programmer for a quickly growing game localization agency back then.
One day, they had this very big game translation project and were desperate to meet the deadline. They sent me a bunch of files and basically told me to translate as much as I could, without caring too much about the rest.
I didn’t know a thing about translation then. I spent the next two weeks typing out as fast as I could, basically doing my best to translate as I read the source. My output was ridiculously high, maybe 10,000 words a day. I managed to find just enough time to run my spellchecker at the end and that was it. No proofreading, let alone QA. And yet, apparently, our client was satisfied and managed to make something good out of the draft I had prepared. Still, it was quite a soul-numbing experience.
Obviously not a dream start, but it did lead me to much better things.
I’d invested years into graduate school and put in my time learning the ropes of the industry working at a translation agency. After much planning, I was finally ready to make the leap into freelancing. I sent my information to several potential clients and waited for the job requests to start coming in… all the while continuing my client search! Soon enough I received my first request. It was a small job, but an interesting text that was fun to work on. The document was a company newsletter discussing the success of a recent conference. I got to work and immediately knew that I would be very happy as a freelance translator. Nearly three years later, I’m still loving my work. No two projects are the same, and I enjoy seeing what exciting new text each day brings.
David Miralles Pérez
I remember I was living in France and working as a Spanish teacher for the University of Caen back then. Even though it was a good job, teaching isn’t something that I want to do as a career. I knew it was very difficult to find an in-house position working as a full-time translator, so I decided to go freelance.
It was hard at the very beginning. I invested money and time to get my website and business cards ready and gain visibility online. I started promoting my services both online and offline and attending events related to translation/interpreting and my fields of expertise. In one of these events, I got to know a person working for one of the main marketing agencies in Normandy. He mentioned that they had translated their website into English and Italian, and they were looking for someone who could translate their website into Spanish. Obviously, I didn’t hesitate for a second and gave him my business card.
One week after the event, they got in touch with me asking me for a quote. After overcoming the fear of getting rejected because the price was too high (I’m sure this sounds familiar to most of you), they accepted it.I have to admit that it was very challenging to kick off with such an important assignment. We all know all the aspects involved in translating a website, and I didn’t have all the knowledge that I have now within the marketing field. However, they were happy with the results and that encouraged me to specialise in marketing.
After that first assignment and gaining more experience in this field, I got to help this client improve my first translation offering localisation, keyword research, copywriting and content creation services. Now that I look back to my first translation, I can see how I have evolved as a translator, but also how my relationship with this client has evolved. They learned how to deal with a translation project in Spanish and I got to learn a lot about marketing thanks to this client. Win-win relationship!
I completed my first translation in the late 1980s and to be honest, I can’t remember what it was about! I do remember that I typed it up on an electronic Olivetti typewriter with a small display above the keys that gave me a chance to check for typos before they were set in stone. I was thrilled to deliver the translation almost Tipex-free. The whole process seemed pretty high-tech at the time; little did I know what lay ahead…
My first “real” experience in this beautiful profession was actually an interpreting assignment at one of the largest agricultural complexes in Russia. It was a crazy mix of emotions: excitement about this incredible opportunity to apply the skills I’ve learned at my university, with a dash of fear of making a mistake and making a fool of myself. But it all worked out pretty well. I’ve got the unforgettable experience and my first glowing testimonial from a happy client which allowed me to kick-start my career.
Before getting into translation and terminology, I was an executive assistant working for the regional office of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in Costa Rica. That was my first job after graduation and the first time I was approached with a translation. It was a training manual for scouts and, being new to the employment world and new to translation, it was quite a challenge; scary, but a challenge. Yes, I was not a professional translator then, but that first translation job marked me forever. I truly enjoyed it and I started thinking about translation as a career. Thinking in retrospect, the part that I enjoyed most was learning the specialized terminology, so I guess you could say it was meant to be!
Maria Pia Montoro
My first translation dates back to more than ten years ago, when I was freshly graduated with very poor experience in translation. I worked as a news translator in a press review office. My job was to monitor the media, translate news articles, and write short abstracts in order to quickly provide the clients with up-to-date information about their sector, their company, the competitors, and their reputation.
One day, a client was particularly interested in an article and its related sources. Among them, there was a very long and detailed dossier. Since I was the most recent hire, inexperienced and full of motivation, I was the designated victim for this assignment.
Back then, I considered it a show of trust. The truth was, they were just too busy, and simply did not want to be bothered by such a long and demanding translation. I started working on it as soon as I could; only now I can imagine my colleagues snickering in their cubicles.
The assignment was enormous. What was more, I did not know the first thing about its topic. The further into the translation I was going, the more frustrated I was getting, and the more my motivation faded. I began feeling so bored I didn’t even search for the most obscure terminology anymore, just making wild guesses as I went along. I just wanted to finish this awful translation and have my life back.
Translators know things that nobody else knows: read Maria’s #myfirsttranslation in full.
Share your #myfirsttranslation story in the comments box below.