A Thai delight

Last month I spent two weeks on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand. I went diving (did my Open Water Course yeyyyy), had a few Thai massages and ate amazing food. I didn’t know that eating out would turn out to be so much fun. The menu translations out there are incredible, you can spot errors, letters omissions and misspelling pretty much every time you turn a page. Pannels on the streets are also quite funny to read. And all Westerners keep asking one another “who the heck translated this?”, no one really ever has the answer so people laugh, move on, and the same question arises again 5 minutes later when you see another misspelled or mistranslated English name.

I saw tons of these and feel a bit guilty not having taken many pictures of them to post them online. I know how much people like these, particularly language lovers like me. I managed to find one little pic in my folder which I hope will make you smile. Next time, I promise I’ll compile everything I see.


Happy weekend everyone and if you have similar pics of previous trips, post them and let me know ;-)



What Makes You Unique In The Translation Industry?

IndesignThere is something I have been willing to blog about in while now, and it’s about how to differentiate yourself in the translation industry.

We all know there is a lot of competition in this sector, particularly for the main European languages such as French, Spanish and Italian. In various countries, including Belgium, our profession is not protected, which means that you don’t necessarily need to have a translation degree to start freelancing as a translator. Why? I don’t know, but this leads people to think that provided you speak another language, you can become a translator. We all know this is not true, but anyway, this post is not about that.

So as we face a fierce competition, whether it is due to the number of linguists on the market or the low rates that some of them apply, it is important to find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and by competitors I mean the linguists who have the same language pairs. I don’t really consider those who have different language combinations as competitors…

Having the relevant degrees and affiliations is vital, though not sufficient anymore. Being able to offer additional services that can be combined to translation can be the key.

So what do you enjoy doing besides translating? You don’t know? That’s not a problem, have a look around, get the programmes of a few local training centres and find out :-)

When I started working in the translation industry, I quickly realised that the number of reliable typesetters on the market was very low. Yes, you can easily outsource your DTP to Asia and the Middle East, but the time difference and, sometimes, lack of reliability, make your projects difficult to handle.

This made me think: maybe I should learn how to use InDesign and then offer this service? I saw two selling points in being a translator as well as a typesetter. First, I am based in Europe, so there is no issue with the time difference as most of my clients are Europe-based. Second, being able to provide both translation and typesetting makes life so much easier for my clients as they can send their projects to one single point of contact rather than contacting 1 translator who doesn’t understand how typesetting works and 1 typesetter who doesn’t understand what he or she is typesetting.

type-in-indesign1_6738Investing in the software and the training have already paid off and in just a few weeks I saw a good return on investment. As I also speak Arabic, I’d love to be able to offer Arabic typesetting. However, this alphabet is not supported by the Western Version of Indesign – which is the version I have. Right now, I can’t really invest in yet another software, but that is on my “To Get List” so I am hoping to get it within the year. Besides, as this version is not easy to find, this means that Arabic typesetters are not that many on the market, so I guess that’s also a good point to differentiate myself.

So guys, it’s time to act NOW! What are you gonna do to make yourself UNIQUE? I’d love to know :-)

Until next time,


10 Things You Should Do When Starting As a Freelance

imagesHave you recently made THE BiG step and decided to become a freelancer? You can be proud of yourself – it takes a lot of courage to take the plunge.

We all know it’s not easy to start from scratch. Most of the time, you start with zero client, which means you may find yourself struggling with your finances and your morale but hey, you have to start somewhere, right?

Having little work at first isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I know the ultimate goal is to make money, but having some free time can allow you to devote a certain amount of time on things you couldn’t usually focus on. In this post, I have compiled 10 tips to get started as a freelance.

#1 Keep Translating Even If You Don’t Get Any Projects: not having any clients doesn’t mean not doing any translation. First, you need to keep practising if you don’t want to lose what you learned. Keep in mind the “use it or lose it” expression. And believe me, it takes much longer to learn skills than to forget them. Also, if you’re into literary translation, now is the perfect time to work on you sample translations so you can send them to publishing companies.

#2 Get Some Information About Translation Memberships And Affiliations: clients tend to pay a lot of attention to memberships, affiliations and compliance. Try to get as many of them as possible. Also try to get these quite early in your “journey as a translator”, since you will have to prepare a CV and perhaps a website. You want these to be top-notch as early as possible to maximise your opportunities.

#3 Use Social Media To Get More Visibility: social media is now playing an important part in the translation sector. People used to think of translators as invisible anti-social weirdos. These days are over and a lot of them are now out there, developing and promoting their brands. You will have to do that too if you want to get yourself known.

#4 Meet With Other Linguists: you may think of it as being a waste of time but frankly, I should probably have put this tip at the top of my list. Translators are perfectly placed to advise you on what to do/not to do and it’s a great opportunity to share your experience. If you meet the right people, you may learn a lot from them as it is likely they faced the same challenges as yours. See my post about London Tweet Up for a concrete example.

#5 Improve Your Working Languages Or Learn A New One: you just got started and don’t have that many clients, right? Well, now is the perfect time to improve the languages you already know and/or learn a new one. Think about it: how beneficial would it be if you devoted only 4 hours a week to this? I’d also recommend that you develop skills that are not necessarily language related but that could enable you to offer a wider range of services.

#6 Dedicate At Least 2 Hours A Day To Direct Clients Prospects: ouhouhou. Does this step scare you? Ok, a lot of translators would never do that. But working myself as a Sales Manager (for a London-based translation agency), I know how crucial prospecting is if you want to develop your business. No matter how good you are, people won’t buy from you just like that. You’re gonna have to go and get them. So spend at least 2 hours a day prospecting (cold-calling, emails, research…)

#7 Apply To Agencies: working for an agency is not that easy. Usually, they work with the same linguists and will only start using you when they are stuck for a project or if you know an insider personally. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send your CV. You may be surprised and who knows, they may call you when they are in big trouble, you help them, they are happy and boom, your relationship with that agency was born :-)

#8 Take Up A Sport: as a translator, it is very likely you will spend most of your days sitting in front of your PC. There is a high chance you will also be tempted to eat bad things at your desk every now and then. Get a membership at your local gym and try to do 2.5 hours of exercise a week.

#9 Have A Rhythm Of Life: you are now a freelancer and have to manage your own time. Believe me, you will be tempted to sleep in and to postpone all sorts of things you don’t particularly want to do. DO NOT fall in the trap! It only takes 21 days to change a habit, so suck it up, wake up at a decent time and organise yourself. Make sure you work (i.e. do one of the above) for at least 8 hours a day.

#10 Manage Your Finances Wisely: there may be times at the beginning where you get a lot of projects and thus a lot of money. You probably heard of the “feast or famine” concept translators go through. If this happens, make sure you can manage your finances and don’t splurge your money. You don’t know if you will get the same amount of work next month. It works both ways though, so if you don’t get anything for a couple of weeks, don’t lose faith, something may come up at least expected.

7 Reasons Why You Should Learn Arabic

ahlanSince 9/11, the Arab World has been super controversial. Terrorism and islamism are now usually associated with that region, as well as other prejudices. I guess that’s why I wanted to learn Arabic in the first place and I think it’s the best decision I have ever made! I am so happy I took the plunge in 2006, although my parents encouraged me not to. I don’t think they had any preconceived ideas, but in their opinion, because the writing (and the language in general) was different, they thought a non-Arab would never be able to speak Arabic fluently. They were also scared to let me go to the Middle-East, afraid I would either be kidnapped or sold to a bedouin in exchange for a few camels. In both cases, they were wrong. Yes, you CAN become fluent in Arabic if you are not of an Arabic origin. Not only that, I personally think that if you are highly motivated, you can actually speak it and write it better than a lot of Arabs (I mean Standard Modern Arabic, regional dialects are a different story). In today’s post I have compiled 7 reasons why you should take up Arabic – I hope they will be convincing :-)

#1 Arabic is not a common language


Translating from Arabic into a European language is rather unusual. This means you have more value on the market. This also shows people personality traits such as perseverance, determination and tolerance, which helps building trust in your relationship with your clients.



#2 The writing is different from European languages

arabic alphabet

To me, this was the most enjoyable part of the Arabic learning process. When I started learning the Arabic alphabet, I felt like I was learning a coded language that no one else would be able to understand. It only takes a couple of days to learn how to read. People will tell you that it’s tricky because letters are written differently when they are at the beginning, the middle or the end of the word, but to be frank, it’s not rocket science.

#3 Grammar is regular


Being a French speaker, I know how difficult grammar can be. French is full of irregularities, and although I am a native, it doesn’t mean I never struggle when I write in French. Arabic grammar is far from being easy, but unlike French, it is logical! The rule is the rule and you even have rules for exceptions. I love Arabic grammar as it is similar to mathematics :-). It has cases like in German, but only 3: Nominative, Accusative and Genitive.

# 4 The culture is different


Which means it’s also intriguing. In the case of Arabic, culture is closely linked to Islam. This doesn’t mean that all Arabs are Muslims (or that all Muslims are Arabs), but the majority of them are. Also, there is a great deal you can visit in the Middle-East. Mesopotamia is considered a major milestone in the history of the world, and so are cities like Cairo, Damascus or Aleppo.


#5 The Arab Spring


Let’s face it: Arabs are going through a tough time at the moment. And not being able to go back to Syria makes me really sad. A lot of my Arab friends have fled the country, and a lot of their friends have died or been imprisoned. On the flip side, it means there are a lot of opportunities businesswise: a lot of Arabs came to Europe, and in most cases, they will have to get their documents translated. Also, the fall of dictatorships (Libya for example) will allow the Western World to build new relationships with local businesses and open offices in the region. Needless to say that these companies will require staff who are fluent in Arabic.

#6 The Sun


Okay, I won’t consider this as a USP as many other languages are spoken in sunny countries, but having the possibility to learn a language without asking yourself “how is the weather gonna be tommorrow?” is quite appealing. Ladies, in most Arabic countries you can’t just walk on the street in a mini-skirt, but still, it’s better than walking in a rainy and windy city like London.



#7 It’s Cheap


I am not aware of prices applied in Europe when it comes to Arabic classes, but shall you choose to travel to an Arabic country, it will be relatively cheap. Classes are much cheaper than in Europe and the value of money is goooooood. Accommodation is also much cheaper, which helps if you want to spend a year abroad.



Bye for now,


Jan 2013 London Tweet Up



Last Saturday was a big day for me: my first networking event as a linguist. It took me a little while to decide to go, as I was a bit nervous to go there alone, not knowing anybody. After giving it a little bit of thought, I told to myself: why not, translators are usually nice and friendly people after all :-).

I got to the restaurant in Covent Garden and asked for the organiser of the event, a lady called Val, owner of Rainy London Translations. I was taken to a long table full of translators from everywhere, sharing their experience, their achievements, challenges and upcoming projects.

What I felt when I sat at the table was so weird. Even though I didn’t know any single person, I immediately felt in my element. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was part of a community I had always belonged to, speaking to people who have the same career ambitions, goals, fears, and the same passion for languages.

I am thrilled to know this event is hosted monthly, and I’m already looking for the next London Tweet Up.

Bye for now!