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  • 11/27/2017 09:31 | Elise Kruidenier

    Panel Discussion: Working with Agencies

    On November 11, NOTIS hosted a panel discussion with the following participants:

    * Stacey Brown-Sommers, MindLink
    * Jessica Rogauskas, Universal Language Service
    * Dimitri Azadi, Purple
    * Suenne Dixon, Academy of Languages

    The panelists discussed the topic of working with agencies: how to start out, get work, maintain good relationships, etc. Here, we’ll provide an overview of what was discussed during the panel.

    The takeaway message here is that there is plenty of work for everybody, although it can take time to get established, depending on your language pair. Of course, your language skills need to be solid, but the panelists emphasized soft skills even more. If you’re professional and you work well with others, you’re more likely to get called back.

    Below is a summary of questions discussed.

    Why are agencies relevant?

    Agencies provide a number of benefits for linguists:

    * scheduling
    * billing and taxes
    * confidence you’ll get paid
    * marketing
    * communication and education with client
    * HIPPA compliance
    * advocacy for contractors and the industry

    Do agencies worry about linguists leaving for direct clients?

    * No, contractors are free to work independently, and generally must, because no one agency can provide enough work for a full schedule.
    * However, it’s not cool to steal clients. It happens, but not often.
    * An attitude of abundance is helpful. There is a lot of potential work for everybody.

    How can interpreters build a good relationship with agencies?

    * Be clear about your specialities, so an agency knows when to call you.
    * Get certified.
    * Do continuing education.
    * Be engaged with the agency and the community.
    * Be professional.
    * Don’t be a diva.
    * Be willing to travel.
    * Answer the phone.
    * Show up for work on time (surprisingly, this is a big issue).
    * Be proactive and clear about any problems.

    How can you stand out as a translator?

    * Read the instructions carefully.
    * Work independently.
    * Engage with agency (likes on social media, etc.).
    * Do continuing education.
    * Be clear about qualifications (language, specialities, certifications).
    * Have a profile on LinkedIn (with picture—this makes a difference for many).
    * Meet your commitments.

    How can we work better together?

    * Work as a team.
    * Communicate clearly.
    * Keep the client happy.
    * Have good relationships with colleagues.
    * If you’re turning back a job, recommend a colleague who is available.
    * Communicate about problems.
    * Work to ensure fair policies.
    * Show up on time.
    * Read policies about client cancellations so you’re not surprised about getting paid.

    Comments about ASL interpreting

    * Team work helps interpreters mentor and also become aware of serious problems with performance.
    * ASL is a small community, so awareness of issues spreads fast.

    Getting started as a new translator/interpreter

    * Get involved in the community.
    * Get certified.
    * Do continuing education.
    * Follow up with agencies from time to time.
    * Turnover rate is high, so be patient.
    * Be flexible (be willing to travel or work on short notice).
    * Don’t turn down work too often. It’s fine to be booked already.

    Thank you to German translator Melody Winkle for taking notes!

  • 11/20/2017 09:14 | Elise Kruidenier

    by Jennifer O’Donnell and Tim Gregory

    On November 8, 2017, the NOTIS Literary Translators had a roundtable discussion on Education for Literary Translators with Tim Gregory and Jennifer O'Donnell, and co-founder of the NW Literary Translators group, Shelley Fairweather-Vega, acting as host.

     Tim Gregory is an Arabic to English ATA accredited translator who is working on transitioning into more literary translation. He’s currently completing his MA in Translation with the University of Illinois and team-teaching one class on technology at Bellevue College in their Translation and Interpreting Certificate program.

    Jennifer O'Donnell is a Japanese to English translator with an MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS, and is also studying Translation and Interpreting at Bellevue College. Jennifer is a Bilingual Logistics Coordinator for an export company and runs her translation business J-EN Translations on the side.

    We asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves and share their own translation education experiences. The majority had learned translation and about the translation business the long way – either as a bilingual or a language student, and then, to quote one attendee, “making all of the mistakes we have to make and then figuring out how to make a living at it.”

    Tim’s Experience Completing the MA in Translation with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    Tim has found the program at UIUC to be what he expected and hoped after reading up on the curriculum and requirements. The MA in Translation and Interpreting is divided into three tracks: Translation for the Professions, Literary and Applied Literary Translation, or Conference and Community Interpreting. Tim is focused on the literary translation track.

    There are general courses in translation theory, ethics, practice, and technology that cover much of the basics of translation and tools used by translators, but little in the way of practical advice on things like freelance business models, setting rates, creating invoices, tracking projects, and so on, even though several of the instructors do freelance translation work.

    If a student works with French or Spanish, they will find that many of the professors in the program work in those pairs as well and can provide in-depth feedback on translation assignments. Even when the professor does not share the student’s language, however, they provide excellent feedback on the structure and readability of a translation. In some cases, Tim has found this to be a particular strength of the program.

    Once beyond the general courses, specialization and electives kick in. These classes take the students through the process of translating literature including poetry and short stories, with final projects like creating a literary magazine (for the class only, not for publication).

    The school offers translation or elective courses for the following languages: French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. If a language-specific translation course is not available, students can take one of the electives instead. Later, they will have the opportunity to work with a mentor who is a professor in their language, if appropriate, as part of their capstone project for the MA – or select a mentor from outside UIUC with approval from the capstone coordinator.

    The MA capstone project can be just about anything of substance related to the translation field, but a translation alone would not be sufficient. A paper written about a lengthy translation, creation of a specialized terminology database, development of a translation-related class, or appropriate research have all been used by students in the past.

    Jennifer's Experience with the MA in Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS

    Jennifer did not have a great experience with her MA. She joined the program because it was at a very prestigious school for languages and international culture, but she found the MA to be sorely lacking.

    The program was half theory and half practicing translation, with little to no feedback or direction. She was not taught how the theory applies to practical daily translation, and with no feedback on translations, she felt like her translation skills didn't improve at all.

    When she graduated, she struggled a lot, not just because of the lack of translation skills, but also due to the lack of business know-how. Without any guidance to the freelance business, she had to turn to the internet and other translators. Then when she moved to Bellevue, the Bellevue College T&I certificate program to make up for the education she felt she missed.

    Education in the Business Side of Translation

    Many people at the event agreed that educational programs for translators often lack business training.

    This concerns not only how to determine rates, of course (which is mostly a US-based hang-up because of the ATA/FTC antitrust issues), but also how to find and work with clients, create invoices, set up a business and so on.

    Some favorite resources that were shared which counter this lack of education include Corinne McKay’s How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator and her online courses and podcast, as well as Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcast. Both are good resources for the business-running side of translation.

    Bellevue College Translation and Interpreting Certificate Program

    The Bellevue College curriculum introduces translation and interpreting skills at a good pace, honing on everyone's skills before allowing people to focus on their language pairs. They emphasize the importance of knowing that translation and/or interpreting needs to be a good fit for you before you put the time, effort and money investing in the skills.

    A lot of business acumen is included in the Bellevue College curriculum, and the Tech for Translators class that Tim team-teaches not only covers TM tools, but also general computer and word processing skills, including an introduction to opensource operating systems and tools and lessons about using technology to organize translation workflow.

    Despite satisfaction on that front, the students who had attended BC were disappointed that the program there does not address literary translation. Tim promised to propose adding a literary elective and possibly a writing skills elective when the BC board next meets.

    Education in Writing Skills

    We then discussed education in writing skills as part of a translator’s education.

    Tim described the Translator Journal exercise in Dr. Patricia Phillips’ Writing for Translators class and how it has evolved for him from a 5-minute daily practice of high-speed, no reference translation practice into learning to mimic different authors’ voices. He shared these exercises as something everyone could do for themselves to improve as translators and writers, in order to avoid always translating into one’s own voice.

    Everyone agreed that having peers review your work is great at helping hone your skills. That's why the NOTIS Literary Translation Feedback Forums (the next one is coming up on December 21) are a great experience for all participants.

    After input from one attendee who is going through an MFA program with “very low residency” in New Jersey (and residency locations around the US), we may even have sparked a movement to (through NOTIS, most likely) create a literary translator’s retreat somewhere in the area in the next year or two. This would include a week of time to translate, combined with workshopping, guest speakers, readings, and peace and quiet, similar to the week-long Middlebury Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference in Vermont, USA.

    Link Roundup:

    Higher Education (MA and non-MA) Programs:

    Literary Translation Resources

    Translation Business Resources:

  • 08/04/2017 13:30 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS is pleased to present a guest blog post by translator Viktor Slepovitch. Examples given are in Russian, but we hope the topic will be useful to everyone.

    Viktor Slepovitch is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Business English at Belarus State Economic University (Minsk, Belarus). He obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Minsk State Linguistic University, was a Fulbright visiting scholar at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and won the Chevening award presented by St. Mary College, Twickenham, London. Viktor has also been a guest lecturer at California State University (Bakersfield). He is Principal Consultant for Washington Translation Bureau, a NOTIS corporate member.

    The role of situational subject-matter awareness in translation

    When reading a professionally translated text, we do not focus on the fact that it is a translation—instead, our attention is drawn to the subject matter of the text. What might make us aware we are dealing with a translation is a multitude of translation faux pas. The best way to avoid those is situational subject-matter awareness, and contextual awareness, which I would argue is a part of a translator’s competency and professionalism.

    Situational subject-matter is the persons, objects and phenomena found in the text, as well as the relationships between them. Translation scholar E. Breus states that the same extralinguistic situation can be perceived and described differently in different languages [1]. Clearly, without situational subject-matter awareness, a translator is not able to produce an adequate translation and fully convey the message meant by the author in the source language.

    Here are two examples in which situational subject-matter awareness is vital for understanding what the original text is about.

    ENGLISH – RUSSIAN: Why is it that smokers always head out coatless, no matter what the weather? (Head out – выходят из здания на улицу = are leaving the building rather than стремятся выйти or направляются = are trying to leave or are headed for.)

    RUSSIAN – ENGLISH: Библиотечный фонд университета составляет полтора миллиона экземпляров книг. (Библиотечный фонд is not the library fund, but the number of books held.) [2], [3].

    Without situational subject-matter awareness the wrong translation is unavoidable. In a TV program about rock musicians of the 1980s who arranged concerts for charity, it was said that the musicians called themselves representatives of the Band Aid generation. According to Wikipedia, the term originated from a charity super-group featuring mainly British and Irish musicians founded in 1984 to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do they know it’s Christmas?”.

    The translation of this phrase into Russian came out as поколение групповой помощи (literally “the generation of group assistance”), which was not correct. The word Band-Aid (originally meaning a brand of an adhesive bandage) was understood as split into two words: band (a musical group) and aid (assistance). The context, however, also made it clear that the musicians considered it their mission to provide emergency aid for the needy—just like a Band-Aid is used for emergency purposes. The translator should have used a metaphorical expression, but the major challenge was to understand the situational subject-matter for the purpose of conveying the meaning in Russian.

    The context is what makes it easier to understand the situational subject-matter and produce the correct translation, taking into account what and how they say/write in this or that situation in the target (Russian) language.

    • When watching American movies, Russian-speaking viewers fluent in English are quite often able to notice incorrect translations of English phrases. For instance, in a telephone conversation, the question Are you there? should be rendered in Russian as Ты меня слышишь? (literally Can you hear me?) rather than the more word-for-word Ты там?
    • As a rule, the meaning of the word becomes clear as soon as it is placed in a sentence, which serves as a narrow context:
    • ENGLISH – RUSSIAN: The settlements between companies were made without delay. – Расчеты (not урегулирование, поселения, etc.) между компаниями были произведены без задержки.
    • RUSSIAN – ENGLISH: Нам было предложено оценить его работу. – They suggested that we evaluate (not appreciate, estimate, etc.) his work.
    • But in other cases, to understand the situational subject-matter and the meaning of the word or a phrase, a broad context is needed. It may include several sentences, a paragraph, or even the text of the whole article or video, as was the case with the Band Aid generation.
    All this means that situational subject-matter awareness—as an important translation issue—should be considered an indispensable skill in interpreting and translation, alongside skills such as discerning narrow and broad contexts, awareness of realia and culture-bound objects, competence in terms of the text’s content or field, recognizing the dangers of carbon paper (word-for-word) translation, and observing the norms of the target language.

    That said, a translator should not overdo it by trying to produce a special effect in the process of translation. The following example seems to be a good illustration of this statement.

    In May 1995, an American was interpreting during the meeting between Clinton and Yeltsin in the USA. Russias President sarcastically said, “Вот вы, журналисты, предрекали провал. На самом деле это вы провалились”. This is what the interpreter said: “You, journalists, said it would be a disaster. In fact, you are a disaster.” (Clinton is laughing.)

    Perhaps in that situation it would have been more appropriate to use the verb to fail: “You journalists predicted failure. In fact, it’s you who have failed.” The word disaster was too strong, and was surely a case of the interpreter “overdoing” the interpretation [4].


    • 1.      Бреус, Е.И. Основы теории и практики перевода с русского языка на английский [“Fundamental theory and practice of Russian to English translation”]. Moscow: URAO, 1998.
    • 2.      Слепович, В.С. Перевод (английский – русский): учебник [“Translation (English - Russian: Textbook”]. Minsk: Tetralit, 2014.
    • 3.      Слепович, В.С. Настольная книга переводчика с русского языка на английский = Russian-English Translation Handbook. Minsk: Tetralit, 2013.
    • 4.      Чужакин, А.П., Палажченко, П.Р. Мир перевода-1. Introduction to Interpreting XXI. – Moscow, 2008. Available online:

  • 07/16/2017 11:55 | Mary McKee

    Many bloggers write about how to work while traveling; there are even some translator-bloggers out there discussing this subject (most notably, see the posts by Jonathan Hine). I’ve worked as a Spanish>English translator for extended periods from a variety of countries (Thailand, Mexico, Cambodia, Argentina, Spain) and have put together some more advanced tips that took me a while to work out. My goal is to help you make your life more comfortable physically and mentally while you’re a working nomad!

    1.        Travel with the same work setup that you use at home. 
    **If you work with just a laptop and use the touch pad that comes with it, skip to tip number 2. If you work with anything in addition to your laptop, keep reading!**
    To stay in good physical condition while traveling, adapt your work setup to be as close to your home workstation as possible. If you work from an office with two screens, a mouse, a keyboard, your screen lifted to eye level, an ergonomic chair, etc. and plan to travel and work with just your laptop, you are putting yourself at risk for physical problems. I use a foldable external keyboard, wireless mouse, mousepad, a tablet as a second screen, and an ultralight computer stand when I’m at home AND when I’m on the road. My entire office setup weighs under 5 pounds. I’ve found lightweight, travel-friendly options for all of my ergonomic necessities and I use them while at home and while traveling, so my office feels the same to my body wherever I work.

    2.       Always have a back-up internet plan (preferably two).

    There’s nothing more frustrating than having your connection fail repeatedly while trying to log on to your cloud-based translation memory provider or your client’s online portal. Today, most accommodations offer wireless internet for free or a minor fee, but the strength and trustworthiness of the connection varies widely. It’s up to you to make sure that you can reliably connect to your clients and online resources.

    Some people assume that they will be able to work in coffee shops. This is reasonable if you’re headed somewhere in the US or Western Europe. However, café Wi-Fi is insecure, unreliable, and putting your fancy computer gear out on a table for any passersby to see could make you a target for theft in lower-income countries. Be safe. Don’t parade your expensive goods in public unless you feel confident that you’re safe.

    I use T-Mobile as my cell phone provider because I can use my unlimited data and texting plan around the world, for no additional cost. If my first (or first two) internet options fail, or I’m concerned about security, I can stream the data from my phone to my computer.

    Another option is to bring a cell phone that uses GSM networks (in the US, T-Mobile and AT&T are the only two carriers whose phones are compatible) and buy a cheap SIM card and data plan to use while you’re abroad. Most countries have cheaper data plans than the US, and you can likely set yourself up for a few weeks for a very low cost (tax-deductible, but always check with your tax professional).

    3.       Pick your lodging based on its table and chair options.

    Even if you work with just a laptop and no peripherals, take some time when booking your lodging to make sure that there will be a reliable, suitable place for you to sit and work. Many Airbnb listings come with some kind of table and chair in your room; even private rooms in hostels often have some kind of surface and chair you can use. Don’t rely on public spaces in a hostel or hotel, because you don’t know who else might be using them when you need to work.

    4.       Assume that outlets will be hard to find.

    Regardless of where you stay or plan to work, assume that you will need to power your device(s) for an entire work session without the possibility of plugging into an outlet. There’s nothing worse than trudging to a café you’ve determined is safe and has strong internet, only to realize that your laptop battery is low and there are no outlets. If you use your phone or tablet for work, buy an external battery pack to bring with you so you’ll never have to worry about snagging that next job via email at strange hours while you’re in a different time zone.

    Do you have experience working while traveling? Share your tips on Facebook or LinkedIn!

  • 06/13/2017 13:36 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

    NOTIS member Katie King talks about organizing a group of literary translators.

    One of Seattle’s best-kept secrets is that is has quietly become the U.S. capital of literary translation. This is great news for me, because I am a literary translator myself. A native of Seattle and a University of Washington graduate, I worked outside the U.S. as a journalist and editor for much of my career, and then lived in London. When I returned home a few years ago, I found that while I wasn’t looking, this always-bookish city had become a translation hub as well.

    At the core of this transition is AmazonCrossing, the world literature imprint of Amazon Publishing, which in the last six years has become the biggest U.S. publisher of literature translated into English. But even more importantly, as I reconnected with my city after so many years of travel, I kept running into other translators. Almost everyone I spoke to knew someone who worked in translation. But it seemed to me that none of these translators knew each other. In London, I enjoyed participating in a large and vibrant translation community with non-stop meetups, translation slams, lectures and book launches. What if, I thought, we could replicate that vibrant community here in Seattle?

    This is where NOTIS comes in. The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society has long represented working translators, both literary and technical, in this region. However, NOTIS board member Shelley Fairweather-Vega spotted a trend. The number of members who are literary translators has been growing, along with interest in literary translation events. Shelley organized the first-ever NOTIS literary translators’ open mic night in the spring of 2016. The event was wildly successful, with more participants than Shelley had expected—including me! And there, a partnership was born.

    Inspired by each other and the dynamic local translators we’ve been talking to, Shelley and I decided to forge a local community specifically for and with literary translators. We call ourselves the Northwest Literary Translators and we launched in December, 2016 with an event that attracted 75 people. Since then, we’ve had monthly events including the Feedback Forum, Perfect Pitch, Publishers Panel, and Seattle’s first ever Translation Slam. Participants have come from as far away as Eugene, OR and Vancouver, WA. We’ve had the generous support of Seattle innovator David Brewster, who has nurtured our group by allowing us to meet in his beautiful Folio Athenaeum, a private library downtown. The University of Washington has also supported us with participation of some of their top translation scholars. We've hosted editors from AmazonCrossing, as well as other small, Seattle-based translation publishers, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning Wave Books.

    But the biggest success of our efforts so far has been the members. Our group includes award-winning translators and people who are just starting out, top translation scholars and passionate self-taught success-stories. And we feel this is only the beginning. We hope to see you at one of our monthly events soon!

    The Northwest Literary Translators meet on the third Thursday of each month at Folio in downtown Seattle. Check the NOTIS calendar for upcoming events.

  • 05/25/2017 10:03 | Elise Kruidenier

    As a non-profit organization supporting translators and interpreters in the Northwest, NOTIS strives to provide opportunities for people to connect and learn about the industry. As another way to give back to our members, we are awarding two scholarships this year: one scholarship for a first-time ATA Conference attendee (October 25-28 in Washington D.C.), and one for a student studying in a translation or interpretation program. We hope these scholarships will help extend access to educational and networking opportunities.

    For more information, please see our Scholarships page, and send any questions to

  • 04/03/2017 15:25 | Elise Kruidenier

    British Columbia is a beautiful province, but it offers more than just an attractive destination for a quick trip across the border. One advantage to being so close to British Columbia is STIBC, our NOTIS counterpart to the north! In addition to providing a number of great training opportunities, STIBC also offers a certification program, an alternative to other certification programs such as the ATA exam.

    The STIBC program offers translators certification in almost 50 language pairs, which may be of interest to those whose languages are not currently covered by other organizations. The overall pass rate for the exam is around 26%, which is consistent with ATA and other exams. Over 150 candidates sit the exam every year. For more information about this certification program, see the PDF at this address.

    If you’re looking for some new types of training programs or a different route to certification, STIBC could be a great organization to check out. Please direct any questions you have their way!

  • 03/04/2017 19:26 | Lindsay Bentsen

    By NOTIS member Elizabeth Adams

    It’s spring and time to check in on our New Year’s resolutions. My resolution was to be more intentional about finding resources to help me be a better translator. While I’m grateful for the wealth of affordable webinars offered by the ATA and, I realized after listening to a couple of webinars last year that there is an important reason we should also be making time for training that is not aimed at translators.

    If you specialize in one or more fields, you need to look at the subject matter from a specialist’s point of view.

    I’ve spent the past five years focusing on legal translation, but the webinars I’ve purchased on that topic have all been fairly general, covering a lot of ground and geared more toward non-native speakers of English. So I branched out: the Harvard online course on Contract Law was free, but it was also very basic and designed for the general public. Bryan Garner’s video presentation on the misuses of "shall" in drafting is targeted at attorneys. It cost exactly $200 more than the Harvard course, but I can already see improvement in my thought processes and my finished work.

    I bet you see two drawbacks already, don’t you? Continuing education outside our supportive translation community is expensive. And it can be hit or miss finding training that is at the right level of difficulty. My strategy is to look for books, articles and courses that deal with the intersection between law and language – that way I know the material is relevant to me, even if it wasn’t developed specifically for translators.

    But what about those pesky high fees? I think of it this way: I’d rather pay a couple hundred dollars for some really useful information than $35 for a webinar where I’ll end up paying my bills and cleaning off my desk while it runs in the background. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m always looking for high-value, low-cost learning opportunities just like the next person.

    If you have tips for finding continuing education opportunities outside the translation industry I would love to hear them!

    Elizabeth Adams is a Russian to English translator living in Everett, WA. She is a big nerd about continuing education. You can find her online here.

  • 02/15/2017 08:00 | Anonymous

    The 2017 Washington Legislature is in session. Seven (!) different bills affecting the translation and interpretation industry were reported during the last WASCLA update call. You can find a list of them below.

    If you want to know more about how a bill becomes a law and what your role in the process can be, check this infographic by CoSN.

    The Legislature has implemented a system designed to allow the public to send comments about bills to their legislators. More information can be found here.

    Videos of the hearings are available two hours after they close. So take a look!


    • HB 1386 / SB 5233 - Concerning exempting translators and interpreters from the state's Industrial Insurance Act.
    • HB 1186 - Concerning the provision of and reimbursement for certain court interpreter services.
    • HB 1285 - Concerning modifying oath requirements for interpreters in legal proceedings.
    • HB 1303/ SB 5142 - Concerning educational [signed language] interpreters
    • HB 1451 Improving language access for public school students and families with limited English proficiency.
    • HB 1540/ SB 5046 - Providing public notices of public health, safety, and welfare in a language other than English.
    • HB 1022 -  Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Act.

  • 02/02/2017 11:38 | Elise Kruidenier

    Please find below links to statements made by various translator and interpreter organizations in response to the president's executive order on immigration.

    American Translators Association (ATA)

    Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI)

    National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC)

    American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)

    If you have any others to add, please contact us at

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