Monday, October 18, 2010

On Language and Translation: A 12-Step Program for Large Projects

On Language and Translation: A 12-Step Program for Large Projects

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting the most out of a conference

I am getting excited for American Translators Associations annual conference at the end of October and I hope to see some of you there. It is two months away but it is high time to start planning for it. Here are some tips on what to do to get the most out of a conference you are attending.

Before the conference:
- Make professional looking business cards so you can exchange them with all the people you meet.
- Polish up your resume and print out at least 50 ex to bring with you to the conference
- Contact the people you know and see if they will be attending so you can plan to meet
- Contact a few people that you would like to get to know better and suggest a meeting during the    conference
- Explore the conference schedule to see which sessions you cannot miss. Be selective and strategic about planning your schedule!
- Plan questions you would like to ask the people you want to get to know better, or potential clients
- For the ATA conference: see the insider tips provided by the Colorado Translators Association for great tips on exploring Denver and eating well.

At the conference:
- NETWORK!!! Engage others in conversation and ask for their business card
- Schedule time to meet with people you would like to speak to
- Take advantage of social events and breaks
- Attend valuable sessions and workshops (duh!)
- Distribute business cards and resumes to valuable colleagues and prospects
- Jot down a few descriptive points on the back of the business cards you receive to make it easier to follow up

After the conference:
- Review you notes and documents from the conference. Make a to do list to take action on valuable information from the conference, people to contact, business tips etc.
- Follow up with people within 1-2 weeks after the conference

Do you have any useful tips on how to make the most of a conference? Please share!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How do you keep up your native language when living abroad?

For a freelance translator living outside the country where they speak my native language, it is imperative that I work hard on keeping up my native language skills. I have several Swedish friends who are not doing that and they start sounding very "Swenglish" after a while, not to mention the writing. How do you keep up your language when living abroad? Here are some ways I do this:

1. Speak my language at home and with Swedish friends every day.
2. Read Swedish books. We have even started a Swedish book club where we read and discuss Swedish books, written by Swedish or Nordic authors.
3. Read Swedish newspapers and industry journals online every day or at least several times a week.
4. Listen to Swedish radio while working. ;-)
5. I am not much of a TV watcher, but I am grateful to be able to watch some Swedish TV-programs online every now and then.
5. Last, but not least. Travel back to Sweden as often as possible. I try to go once a year and stay for a month. Unfortunately Sweden is quite far away from Utah, US and the trip is expensive. It is also very important to me to bring my children when I go so they can keep up their second native language.

One thing that will really help is my husbands sabbatical year in two years. He is a professor at the university and will get a sabbatical year every 7 years. Then we will go to Sweden and live there for a year and a half. I am so looking forward to this, but my children not so much. Perhaps because they will be 14 and 12 then and it is a sensitive time in their life. But I know that in retrospect it will all be good for all of us.

Do you think this is working? I do. However, just to make sure, I also have a native Swedish proofreader living in Sweden that I work with. Are there any freelance translators out there reading this that are not living in their native country? How do you keep up your language skills?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Becoming a translator - by accident, meant to be, or strategic decision

Lately, I have been thinking about how I became a translator, and I was wondering if there are many that are in my situation. How did you become a translator? Was it by accident, was it just meant to be or did you make a conscious decision to become a translator?

I am born and raised in a bilingual country, Finland, and speaking the minority language, Swedish there. My education and upbringing was all in Swedish and I knew more about the Swedish culture, than I did the Finnish. Strange? Early on I loved reading and writing and soon developed a keen interest in languages and different cultures. Apart from my mother tongue, I studied English, Finnish, German, French and Italian in school. Did I ever think of becoming a translator? No! It never crossed my mind. I ventured on with studies in International Marketing, hoping I could make use of my language skills and love for different cultures through that.

After my university studies I lived in both France and Belgium and settled in Sweden. I met Kevin, who is now my husband, during my studies. He is an American and received a great job opportunity in Utah, USA, and that is how I ended up here. When I arrived, I was pregnant with my second child, used to one year of maternity leave, great daycare and a very family friendly company, working as a product marketing manager. Coming here was quite a culture shock and I decided to stay home with my two small children.

After a while I started looking into possibilities of working from home and tried all sorts of multilevel marketing opportunities with no real success. One of my friends suggested that I should be a translator. One day I was playing around on the Internet and found some translator networks online. I studied them, did some research online, and decided to sign up. It wasn't long until I received my first job and after that I have never looked back.

I have now worked as a freelance translator for 7 years, educated myself on the way, and now have a successful freelance translation company. I learn something everyday and love what I do. I also love learning and would become certified and educated if there would be opportunities for English-Swedish translation education and certification in the US. At least I am working on starting English-Swedish certification through the American Translators Association.

But I am wondering about others. Many other translators that I know are highly educated, and come from successful careers in medicine, law etc. How did they decide to become a translator? Was it by chance, like me? There are educational programs in translation. Therefore, there must be many people that early on have made a conscious decision to study translation and become a translator. Whichever way you get there is a good way. Don't you just love what you do? Please share!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More about me on Watercooler

Andrew Bell is managing the popular "Watercooler ...Networking for Professional Translators", where you can read a lot of interesting discussions about everything regarding the translation business. This week he is graciously featuring an interview with me on the Watercooler. If you want to find out more about Watercooler you can go to and if you want to read the interview, you can go to

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How do you market? Do you have a marketing plan?

I am writing a paper/presentation on marketing plans for freelance translators. This is your chance to contribute (I would mention you). How do you market yourself as a freelance translator? Do you have a marketing plan? I know I will have one soon, since I will be presenting one. ;-) Hope to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Child Labor at Swedish Translation Services

This summer I asked my 11 year old son if he wanted to work for me a bit. He did, and went online himself to find out the minimum wage in Utah. He ended up working about 6 hours a week for three weeks. He would have worked more if I had more work for him, and if he had not been away at camps or travel for most of July. He updated my customer database and put everything into an online customer relationship management program called Zoho. ( He also put in all my "prospects" and did a great job. Now I just have to use Zoho and all the contacts in it. Perhaps he can help me send out some news last week of summer break. We will see!

I was very happy with the help, and will certainly employ him for more work later. I am already looking forward to when he can do more complex tasks. He is my favorite assistant for sure. Perhaps he can do Swedish-English translations in a few years. At the moment I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with some administrative task and marketing task, and I am looking for a good Virtual Assistant to hire for website maintenance, design, SEO and market research. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.

Are anyone else out there using their children as helpers in the company? If so, please share your experiences. Have a good rest of the summer!
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Victor Borge - Inflationary Language

I am having a particularly hard time getting started on this work week/Monday. Must be the result of a slight work overload lately. However, I just found this link with a five minute presentation on what would happen if the language would be affected by inflation too. Sure to cheer all you linguist up today. Off to work I go.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Creating a Marketing Plan for Freelance Translators

I am grateful to have a background in international marketing, both professionally and as an education. Now I would like to share this knowledge with other freelance translators and I get the opportunity to do so at the ATA:s annual Conference in Denver, CO on Saturday Oct. 30th.

Most of us know that we should have a marketing plan for our small (or one man) business. But how do we create one that is targeted specifically to our industry? The session will cover the elements of a marketing plan, such as objective, product/service, unique selling points or benefits, market and segmentation, competition, customers or prospects, what media to use and how to track, follow and adjust the marketing plan. Specific examples are given that are targeted and adapted to the translation industry from the standpoint of an independent contractor.

I hope to see you there, but if you miss this you can also watch/listen to a presentation on the subject at the ProZ Virtual Conference on Translator's Day, Sept, 30th, 2010.

Now you have a chance to also share your marketing tips for freelance translators by posting them as comments here. Do you have a marketing plan?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

While I was away - Six great blogpost for freelance translators

I am back from a whirlwind vacation. 10 days, three states (Idaho, Oregon, Nevada), 2,400 miles, two houses, three campgrounds, elevation 0 above sea level to 9700 feet above, plus family reunion and 50th anniversary party. Whew!

Here are some links to great blog posts that came while I was gone:

Right now there is a 10% summer discount on a great book for freelance translators. The book is "The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation" by Judy and Dagmar Jenner and contains all the bricks and mortar, plus great ideas on how to have a thriving freelance translation career. The book can be ordered here.

Here is a great blog post about quoting for freelance translation jobs and the ever popular topic on how to determine your rates from Naked Translations.

We all wish to have direct clients, especially direct clients that pay reasonably and quickly. Corinne McKay has a great blog post on how to ensure payment from direct clients on her blog "Thoughts on Translation".

Machine translation has been a hot topic for a while now and we are probably all following the discussion with great interest. I found this post "What is holding the wider adoption of Machine Translation back?" on eMpTy pages by Kirti Vashee. Very interesting reading stating reasons why MT is not more common yet. posted an interview on the Global Translation Certificate Program offered by The Global Institute. I did not even know about this certificate before, perhaps because they do not offer courses for English-Swedish. Does anyone else have any views on this certification program?

Eve Bodeux is gathering information for a Vendor Management seminar later this fall and is looking for your views and feedback on the relationship between vendor/agency and freelancer. Give your opinion and feedback here.

Well, I better start transitioning into working mode again. I am lucky to have two weeks booked already with translation projects into Swedish. Until later!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Linguistic quality assurance

The second of the four types of quality assurance for freelance translators is linguistic quality, which is the most important aspect for us linguists. The subject has been discussed in many venues and forms before but a refresher is always useful.

I summarized linguistic quality in my previous post as the following:
- Only accept projects that are within your expertise
- Have access to suitable, current reference material
- Use relevant tools that increase quality, for example translation memory and spell checking
- Proofread the end result carefully

Today I want to develop each of these points a bit further. Linguistic quality is the foundation for the “product” we deliver and the core of our knowledge. Many have tried to create “systems” for linguistic quality assurance. There are the ISO and BS systems, there is certification and accreditation, and there are quality assurance programs etc.

Are you feeling overwhelmed already? What can a translator do for quality assurance? Here are some tips:

1. Only accept jobs within your area of expertise/specialization and only translate into your native language.
2. Use CAT-tools to avoid omissions and eye mistakes and to keep the formatting.
3. Never hesitate to contact your customer for clarifications.
4. Find another translator to co-operate with for second proofreading when needed.
5. Always read the clients reference material and use their glossaries
6. Know the target audience for the final product and translate for this audience.
7. Understand the objective of the translation project; is it informative text, ad copy, brand identity…?
8. Use Translation Quality Assurance software if available. These are able to decrease the number of mistakes and improve the overall quality, even if they cannot detect everything, or detect too much/the wrong things.
9. Proofread carefully.

When you proofread there are even further tips to increase the quality:

1. Avoid rework by translating each phrase as if the translation were to be published immediately.
2. Keep a list of dangerous words that you often mistype, but that a spell checker cannot detect.
3. Run the spell and grammar checker. Before doing this though, select the entire document, set the language to your target language and make sure that the checker is fully active.
4. Learn study and comply with target-language typography and punctuation rules. I have noticed that this is one of the most common mistakes among newer translators. For example in US English you write $3,000.00, but in Swedish it is written USD 3 000,00.
5. Never use the “Replace all” command
6. Proofread by comparing with the source, but also by just reading the target text to check that it “flows”.
7. Check headers, footer, graphs and text boxes. These are easy to miss; even CAT-tools can miss them sometimes.

Last but not least, read in your target language often and take continuing education classes at conferences, universities, translation associations etc.

These are some of the tips I have collected. Do you have any you find valuable?
I will leave you with this rather long and heavy post for the month of July. I am off on a road trip to the Oregon coast for family reunions, parties and camping. Have a great summer!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is administrative quality for freelance translators?

Today I would like to go a bit deeper into my previous post about quality assurance for freelance translators, or any type of freelancer. I will start with administrative quality. This is again based on information I have received from the Swedish Association for Professional Translators (

All work is easier if you use structure and routines to improve quality. It is important to organize your work and not change routines that work very often, especially routines for accepting jobs, registering jobs, purchase orders, organization of your translation work, project management, deadlines, delivery, invoicing and accounting.

Without administrative routines it is next to impossible to deal with possible complaints, since you cannot track your jobs or find proof for your case. Stress levels are elevated when you cannot find things, and the profitability decreases if you need to do rework for things you cannot find. Perhaps you forget to invoice for a job you performed, or cannot invoice properly, since you lost the purchase order.

I am not here to impose a certain way to do things for you. If you have a system that works, great! If not, try to find one that works for you. Create a filing system on your computer that makes it easy for you to find things. Use an accounting software and invoicing software. I file things by customer, project and date and also file all emails by customer. That works well for me and I can find and trace jobs easily. The most important thing is that you can go back and find that PO, that invoice, or that translation you did 11 months ago.

Do you have any other advice for administrative quality and organization? All advice welcome! Have a great, stress-free summer and good luck with organizing your business.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is warm sunny weather affecting your productivity or schedule?

This is the second week that my children are on their summer break from school and the warm summer weather has finally reached Park City. More than ever I feel the need to plan my work time and set productivity goals, and I have noticed a shift in my hours. In the day, the warm sunny weather and my two wonderful children are pulling me away from the office, resulting in work still remaining to be done in the evenings. Good thing I am a night owl. I get up early, check email, plan for what needs to get done today, but then I take a several hour break and enjoy our garden, go to the outdoor pool or hiking with my children, plus play mommy taxi for camps and play date arrangements. My iPhone is a great help for the communication with my clients and the planning. Then I get back to the office late afternoon and start working again, often into the late hours of the evening. And do you know what? I kind of like it. I like that I can spend time with my children and enjoy the short, but fabulous, mountain summer AND work at the same time, just later in the evening. Long live freelancing!

Does your schedule change during the summer? Are you as productive? Please share!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I learned about improving cash flow - 9 tips for freelancers

Tonight was the first time I attended the monthly meetings held by "Park City Women's Business Network". These are fun social events with a learning twist. Most of all, I enjoyed the networking with other business women in Park City. Tonight's speaker talked about improving your cash flow. The audience was very diverse and many also had business facilities and employees, but a lot of the tips were also useful for freelancers in general and me in particular with home based translation business.

Here are some of the tips I found useful for freelancers:

1. Improve profits by analyzing return on investment by customer and product line. I can very easily see from past result reports who are my most profitable customers and also which business activities that generate the most money (translation in my case).

2. Maintain customer loyalty (we all know this one, but it can never be repeated too much). Fix the problems, do something extra, follow up and ask for repeat business.

3. Sales and marketing - spend money to make money, but spend it wisely. Luckily we freelance translators have many low cost alternatives through Internet and social media.

4. Have the right tools available for your business - accounting tools, translation tools, project management tools

5. Implement a quality improvement program

6. Facilities - downsize, renegotiate lease terms or work from home. Insulate roof, attic, weather-strip doors, energy-efficient lighting, auto shutoff, check out tax credits.

7. Recycle and reuse - print on both sides of paper, buy reusable water bottles

8. Accounts receivable - be sure to put payment terms on your invoices and have a clear collection policy. Follow up with customer via phone and mail consistently and persistently. Consider requiring down payments of some portion for new customers.

9. Forecast cash flow and plan for future, retirement, have an exit plan

I also left the meeting feeling grateful that I work in a business where the level of financial investment is low and gladly skipped all tips about loans and financing. Now off to do some more translation work and improve my cash flow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Four types of quality assurance for translators

The other day I received a pamphlet about quality for translators from The Swedish Association for Professional Translators (

One way to make the concept of quality easier to deal with for linguists, is to divide it up into four parts: administrative quality, linguistic quality, business quality and cultural quality. International quality standards focus mostly on administrative quality, since it is the easiest to measure. Linguistic quality is the most important for language professionals. Business quality is defined as the relation to the customer, and cultural quality is when a translation speaks to the end customer/reader. All four are important for linguists and warrant further investigation.

Administrative quality:
Routines for handling translation projects, inquiry, offer, order confirmation, translation, control/check, delivery, invoicing, follow up, archiving.

Linguistic quality can only be achieved if you:
- Only accept projects that are within your expertise
- Have access to suitable, current reference material
- Use relevant tools that increase quality, for example translation memory and spell checking
- Proofread the end result carefully

Business quality can only be achieved if you:

- In advance check with the customer what they want/what is needed
- Deliver a product that fulfill the terms agreed upon

Cultural quality can only be achieved if you:
- Are thoroughly familiar with the cultural context of the source text
- Translate the text based on the cultural environment of the target language so that the text will have the same meaning.

I found these definitions very useful. It is easier to work on quality assurance if you can break it up into these aspects and follow them. What do you think? Do you have a system for quality assurance?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The power of immersion for linguist

We linguists are usually all language lovers and most of us know two languages fluently and often have various degrees of knowledge of a few other languages. We might have studied other languages in school, or have been living in other countries. What is then the single most efficient way to learn a language, and the culture, of a country? I believe it is immersion!

Last weekend I was spending four days in Paris, one of my favorite cities, where I have also lived on two occasions for half a year at a time. On arrival I felt that I barely remembered any French at all, after having been away for fifteen years. By the time we left though I could once again get by in French and all of the culture came back to me, and I also could notice some cultural changes.

This started me thinking about the power of immersion for linguists. We work with languages every single day and the single most efficient way to keep up on all the small details of the “other” language, and the culture is immersion. It is important that we regularly and often immerse ourselves in the second or first language of ours. This is not only for pleasure, it is a necessity in order to keep up with all the nuances, changes, slang, borrowed expressions from other languages, and of course, the culture. Try to spend time in the country where they speak the language you are working with as often as possible, read literature, newspapers, magazines etc. Speak the language as often as you can and listen to it as often as you can. It really works and makes you more and more proficient.

Fortunately for us, this has all become much easier with the Internet. I cannot afford to go to Sweden more than once a year, but then I usually stay at least a month. In between I read Swedish newspapers online, listen to Swedish radio online and here in Utah we have even formed a Swedish book club. We are 16 women that meets every six weeks to discuss a book that we have read and to just socialize in Swedish. I look forward to every single meeting.

Have you ever thought about how easily a child learns a second, or even a third language. This “ease” is usually achieved through immersion. For example Rosetta Stone has used immersion as a language teaching method. Granted, you cannot “immerse” yourself very easily through a computer, but it sure beats a regular text book and tape.

How do you keep up with your languages? Do you immerse yourself and how often do you get to do this?

A bientot!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Training for Professional Translators - ProZ an untapped resource?

Nothing beats the quality of a live training event and the networking you can get from attending a professional conference on a national or local scale, but if you do not have the possibility to attend all of these, and if you want to learn more in between these occasions, then can be an good resource. There are on demand training and live sessions.

Here are some examples of what you can find there:

Translator business development - 35 courses available
Training to help translation professionals improve their business on topics including, personal branding, how to find new clients, increase rates, negotiation, etc.

Software, tools & computing - 130 courses available
Training to learn computer aided translation tools, software and to remain current and up to date on the tools used by translation professionals.

Translation skills development & client services - 36 courses availableTraining to help improve translator efficiency, develop and learn new skills.

Agency business development - 10 courses available
Training to help improve your agencies efficiency, gain certifications, implement processes, and more.

Linguistics, theory & pedagogy - 10 courses available
Training to help improve language skills, translation essentials and theory.

SDL Trados Training & Certification - 19 courses available

Now we just have to find the time to tap these resources too. Perhaps some time management tips can help. Do you have any good online training resources to share?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Utah Translators and Interpreters Association - developments and events

I am glad to see that there is finally a local association in my neck of the woods for translators and interpreters. This has not always been the case, but now Utah Translators and Interpreters Association is growing and developing.

What activities does UTIA provide for its members?
Activities include informative programs relevant to translating and interpreting, as well as social events. Networking is an important benefit of participation.
Workshops, seminars and annual conferences provide for professional development and contact with a wider circle of colleagues.
ATA accreditation examinations, sponsored once each year, are one way for members to demonstrate their translation competence. Only ATA members may sit for these exams. Please see the web site of the ATA.

Here are some of the member events that are planned:

June 9th at 6:30 pm: Code of Ethics for Medical and Legal Interpreters
July 14th at 6:30 pm: Translation tools overview

Click here for more information on Utah Translators and Interpreters Association.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Local business expo events - anything for freelance translators?

I was heeding the advise of my Entrepreneurial Linguist consultant Judy Jenner and attended a local business expo and networking event arranged by the Chamber of Commerce last week. I was very sceptical going there. Who would need my translation services there? What was I doing there? I decided to go there anyway, with the mindset that I wanted to see what kind of businesses would be there. It was also good to get out of my office chair and actually network with people in the flesh for a change.

To my surprise I had a lot of fun. What did I get out of it? No new customers off the bat, of course, but many people were interested in hearing what I did. I found a PC-consultant that can fine tune and "clean" my computer for $45 four times a year, which sounded like a good deal to me. I became a member of the Local Business Women's organization and promised to give a presentation during one of their networking events. Last but not least, I was offered to be featured in the local/regional business magazine. I also got some contacts for event planning and tourism companies, who might need translation services.

So, even if you are translating into a unique/rare language, it is well worth attending a local business networking event from time to time, especially if companies that work in your expertise areas will be there. You never know what you will get out of it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vote for Top 100 language blogs

Lexiophile's are each year giving us the opportunity to vote for the Top 100 Language Blogs. The nomination process is over and the voting has begun. I feel very honored to be nominated this year. Thank you guys! My blog has only existed for about three months, but if you like my posts, please take a moment to vote for this blog. A great motivator! Thanks again all for nominating and reading this blog.

To vote for Blogging with Swedish Translation Services, you can click here:

Vote the Top 100 Language Professionals Blogs 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Definitions of translation, localization, internationalization and transcreation

I know you all probably know what all these terms mean, but the definitions I found for translation, localization, internationalization and transcreation were very interesting. The first three terms were taken from Wikipedia, but transcreation did not exist on Wikipedia yet, also that interesting. They are all very dear terms to me, so here you go:

Translation is the comprehension of the meaning of a text and the subsequent production of an equivalent text, likewise called a "translation," that communicates the same message in another language. The text that is translated is called the source text, and the language that it is translated into is called the target language. The product is sometimes called the target text.

Translation, when practiced by relatively bilingual individuals but especially when by persons with limited proficiency in one or both languages, involves a risk of spilling-over of idioms and usages from the source language into the target language. On the other hand, inter-linguistic spillages have also served the useful purpose of importing calques and loanwords from a source language into a target language that had previously lacked a concept or a convenient expression for the concept. Translators and interpreters have thus played an important role in the evolution of languages and cultures.[1]

However, localization and internationalization is not separated, which I think they should be. Here is the joint definition:

computing, internationalization and localization (also spelled internationalisation and localisation, see spelling differences) are means of adapting computer software to different languages and regional differences. Internationalization is the process of designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Localization is the process of adapting internationalized software for a specific region or language by adding locale-specific components and translating text.

The terms are frequently abbreviated to the numeronym i18n (where 18 stands for the number of letters between the first i and last n in internationalization, a usage coined at DEC in the 1970s or 80s[1]) and L10n respectively, due to the length of the words. The capital L in L10n helps to distinguish it from the lowercase i in i18n
Some companies, like
Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems, use the term "globalization" for the combination of internationalization and localization.[2][3] Globalization can also be abbreviated to g11n.[4]

Lionbridge has a good explanation of the difference between the two:

Internationalization readies your product for global markets and ensures it can be localized easily. It is the designing and re-engineering of a product so that it can be localize easily for global markets. It is important to complete internationalization before localization begins; otherwise, you may need to reengineer your product in parallel with localization.

Transcreation is perhaps such a new word that Wikipedia has no definition yet. Here is one definition I found:

Transcreation: Adaptation, mainly used in drama contexts, is defined as “the ‘freest’ form of translation” and one where “... the SL [source language] culture [is] converted to the TL [target language] culture and the text rewritten” (p. 46).The idea of rewriting a text to adapt it to the norms of the target culture, to the point that little trace is left of its source, seems to be at the root of transcreation, too. Nowadays often used in advertising and the media, transcreation is a portmanteau word made by combining together translation and creation, in order to emphasise the considerable amount of creativity required in the process. (From

Friday, May 7, 2010

What a freelance translator can use from The 4-Hour Workweek

The latest book I read for my entrepreneurial pursuit was “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. I can highly recommend it to all entrepreneurs, freelancers and business owners as an eye-opening and thought provoking reading experience.

The book in a nutshell: How to go from $40,000 per year and 80 hours per week to $40,000 per month and 4 hours per week, how to outsource your life and become an escape artist in travelling the world, how to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours and trade a lifelong career to short work periods and mini-retirements. The new version also includes more than 50 practical tips and case studies from readers and much more.

I was skeptical when picking up the book, and granted, not everything can be applied to freelance translating, but here is what I found useful:

1. Resetting my system, my goals and dreams and fulfilling them.
2. How to limit my work to the most important ones to shorten work time
3. How to decrease my information-diet
4. The option of using virtual assistants for web-research, website maintenance, SEO, maintaining and updating databases etc.
5. How to become an expert in 4 weeks
6. Understanding competition and analyzing your presence on the market
7. How to plan an affordable vacation, with family, for a long period of time, while still working some.
8. Tips for further reading material

Does it sound interesting? Pick it up if you have not read it. More info can be found at What are your tips for working less and earning more?

Monday, May 3, 2010

The One Page Business Plan

I discovered the "MomBizCoach" on Twitter and love her audioblog "What Mom Entrepreneurs Need". One of the audio-seminars discussed the one page business plan, which seemed to be perfect for me. The one page business plan is a living document and seems made for all us entrepreneurs/solopreneurs working from home. I was one of those who thought that I did not really need a business plan, or that it would be incredibly hard and time consuming to create one. Now I know better. A business plan is something to bring focus to your business (yes freelance translators are also businesses), keep you on the right track and plan for the future. If you use "The one page business plan" it does not have to be very time consuming at all.

The one page business plan has five major areas:

1. Vision - What are you building?
2. Mission - Why does this business exist?
3. Objectives - What will you measure?
4. Strategies - What will make this business successful over time?
5. Action Plans - What is the work to be done?

More info, templates, coaching, work groups and books can be found at:
So now I have just eliminated all objections and hesitations for making a business plan for your freelance business (including freelance translators). Check it out, answer the questions, consult with a colleague or with an expert from this company and there you go. It’s time for me to do that in any case.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The art of unplugging

Let's face it, even though we all love to work from home and being freelancers, it is sometimes hard to stop working, to turn off the computer, phone etc. and just relax. It is for me in any case. In fact the only time I am totally unplugged is when I go out in the beautiful Utah wilderness and off the grid, no Internet, no cell phone service. There is nothing else to do but to relax and enjoy time with family and nature. That is exactly what I did last weekend when I took the family to Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

Beautiful hiking in Capitol Reef National Park

Our home away from home

The opportunities to do this are plenty in Utah, with 7 national parks within the Utah-borders. Nature clears my head, puts everything in perspective, and I come back refreshed and ready to start working and using my computer and social media again. How do you unplug, or can you unplug?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview with the author of a new book for translators

There is a new book for all us working as freelance translators. The authors are Judy and Dagmar Jenner, and the book is "The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business School Approach to Freelance Translation". Judy Jenner has graciously granted me a "blog interview" for the new book.

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself

I am a Spanish and German translator and community and health care interpreter in Las Vegas, NV. I was born in Austria and grew up in Mexico City. I came to the US as a teenager to play tennis for an American university and first started my translation career in 1998. I hold an MBA in Marketing from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (summa cum laude, for what it’s worth), and I run a boutique languages services business with my twin sister. It’s aptly named Twin Translations.

2. What is an entrepreneurial linguist?

Basically, a linguist who understands that you have to be an entrepreneur first if you want to run your own business and who has the tools to operate a profitable small business.

3. What is the book about?

It will give aspiring entrepreneurial linguists lots of advice, starting with the paradigm shift from “just” linguist (as if that weren’t enough!). The chapters focus on marketing, social media and web 2.0, accounting and organization, negotiating, entrepreneurship, business development, etc. The entire book revolves around working with direct customers, as many colleagues want to shift from working with agencies to working with direct clients, which is what we due exclusively. The book is intended for both beginning and advanced linguists in all language combinations.

4. What made you want to write this book?

It’s all my dear friend Corinne McKay’s “fault.” Her outstanding book,
“How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator” on how to start your own translation business is really the only book that I know that offers insight into the practical side of translation. During a trip to Boulder, CO, where Corinne lives, she encouraged me to write a book, and after much initial resistance, here we are.

5. How long did it take to write it?

Roughly a year, I would work on it during the weekends and whenever I had a quiet moment. We had three editors, one layout designer, two writers (my twin sister Dagmar Jenner was the other one), one very talented cartoonist (
Alejandro Moreno-Ramos), hundreds of drafts, dozens of revisions, and a six-month struggle until we found a cover design we liked.

6. What recommendations would you have for someone who would like to write a book?

Find a good team! Creating a solid book is a team effort, and I couldn’t have done it without the half dozen people who were directly involved in the process. The main thing I learned during the last few months is that at some point, you have to let the book go – there’s no such thing as perfection, so instead of obsessing over it until 2012, we decided to publish it with our multiple editors’ blessing. I am a bit of a perfectionist by nature, so letting it go was a difficult.

7. What are you going to do next?

I will be speaking at the
CHICATA conference in Chicago on May 1, and at the ATA/DVTA Finance Seminar in Philadelphia on May 2. After that, I am off to Europe to visit friends and family and to speak at conferences in four countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. And there will be a five-day vacation, too!

Thank you Judy and have a great conference in Chicago and a wonderful trip to Europe!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Selling to Sweden?

Is Sweden Scandinavian or European? Neither! A noted political scientist calls Sweden ".... the most Americanized country in the world, with the possible exception of the United States". Why? The Swedish emigration to America is part of the cultural heritage in Sweden and most Swedes have some relatives in the United States. Almost every Swede is fluent in English and our cultures have much in common.

Why sell to Sweden?

1. Sweden itself has 9 million inhabitants, but if you include its neighbors and the Baltic Sea region, you end up with about 100 million consumers. Sweden's central location makes it attractive as a base for call centers and distribution centers, as well as direct marketing activities.

2. Sweden has among the top standards of living in the world.

3. Sweden is known as a country of early adopters, both for products and trends. Many companies are using Sweden to try out new products and services before launching them on a larger scale.

4. US Foreign Policy has ranked Sweden as the top three most globalized countries in the world, using examples such as Volvo, Saab, Ericsson and IKEA.

5. Ever since the Vikings, the importance of trade is firmly engrained in the country.

6. Sweden is committed to exploiting new technology and the country invests a lot in research and development. This makes Sweden a good center for collaboration, research labs and innovation.

7. The country provides excellent opportunities for international networking and collaboration with its enormous pool of technical talent and excellent educational system.

8. Sweden ranks among the top recipients of foreign direct investment, with the majority being technology based.

9. Sweden has been called the most wired and wireless nation on earth where most people have a computer and use the Internet daily.

10. The following sectors are popular opportunities for exports: Computer Software, Travel & Tourism, Computer Hardware, Biotechnology, Automotive parts, Telecommunications services, Renewable Energy Equipment, Pollution Control Equipment, Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, Telecommunications Equipment, Security and Safety Equipment, Sports and Leisure Products.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why you should hire a freelance translator directly

I have one more thing to say about professional translators, and especially freelance translators. Why should you go with a freelance translator instead of an agency?

1. Working with an agency does not guarantee that you get a qualified translator. Agencies do not always know which translator is available when confirming your job and you do not always get the same translator for all your jobs.

2. You cannot be absolutely sure that the person editing the project is a professional editor, with native knowledge in both source and target languages, to make sure that the target text sends the same message, with the same style and voice as the source text.

3. By hiring a freelancer you usually get a better price since you take out the middle man.

4. When hiring a freelance translator you can contact him/her directly with questions or new information to increase the quality of the translation, and the translator can discuss all ambiguities and questions directly with you, to achieve the best results possible.

5. When you hire a freelance translator you get first hand information about his/her credentials, publications and expertise.

6. A freelance translator gives you specialization and niche expertise.

7. By using a freelance translator you can make sure that it is only one person doing the translation for urgent translations, and not several translators working on the same project, which can create a mix of styles and skill levels. If a freelance translator cannot fit in the urgent job he/she can usually refer someone from a trusted network of colleagues.

8. Freelance translators are eager to keep you as a direct client and try to provide the best personalized customer service possible.

In short, hiring a freelance translator can be more cost effective and produce better quality translations.

Do you agree with these? Did I forget something?

Monday, April 12, 2010

8 translator blogs I follow

It is time that I share some good blogs about freelance translation and translation as a business that I follow. I have probably not found all the great ones yet, so please share. Here are 8 blogs that I have found newsworthy: - A great blog about translation (duh!) with tips for beginning translators, blogs, tools, the translation market, and my favorite "business practices". The blogger is Riccardo Schiaffino. - Philippa Hammond runs a blog called "Blogging Translator" with business and marketing advice for freelance translators.

I am also following one of my business localization role models Eve Bodeux, who runs a sucessful localization company and blogs about localization, translation, business etc. at

Jill Sommer has a blog called Musings from an overworked translator at I truly love her musings, opinions and tips about the translation business.

Thoughts on Translations is another translator run blog by Corinne McKay, also the author of "How to succeed as a freelance translator". This one is one of the first blogs I started following. Corinne is a driven FR-EN freelance translator with great business ideas for freelance translators. Her blog can be found at

My new business friend and business consultant Judy Jenner runs a great blog and translation business with her twin sister Dagmar Jenner at Translation Times - the entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna. All this useful information can be found at

Translation Tribulations is run by Kevin Lossner and is about "an exploration of translation technologies, marketing strategies, workflow optimization, resource reviews, controversies and other topics of interest to translators, language service providers and language service consumers.

For more translator's business secrets, go to, run by Joy Mo, a very successful online business woman and translator.

I hope you find these as useful as I do. Did I miss some important ones? I hope you all have a great day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

How to be a wealthy freelancer - book review

I just finished the book “The Wealthy Freelancer” by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia and I am glad I did. This book applies to anyone trying to make a good living as a freelancer, translators included. It contains 12 “secrets”, starting with changing your attitude and then proceeding to give you practical steps in how to attract clients, creating a sales pitch, or buzz piece, taking care of your existing clients, maintain good pricing for your services, bringing focus to your business, boosting productivity, achieving a good balance between work and the rest of your life, including a good letter to those around you to make them better understand and thrive with you in your freelancing efforts. As if that was not enough, the book also takes up alternative sources of income to add to your freelancing business, how to handle social media to your advantage and what to do when you get negative feedback.

One of the best insights the book provided me was about positioning yourself in your market. It goes as follow:

When you’ve identified the market you’ll serve, the next step is to position yourself as the go-to resource in that market. Now before you begin to panic, allow me to tell you something, which I hope will have you breathing an enormous sigh of relief: You don’t have to be the best. All you need to do is to take the value you bring and articulate it in a way that positions you favorably in the eyes of your target prospects.” (Pete Savage, The Wealthy Freelancer)

I found the book very useful for my freelance translator business and will for sure use many of the tips in it. If you go to, you can download three chapters for free and see for yourself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Did you know this about Sweden?

So I am a Swedish translator living in the US. But did you know these facts about Sweden and stuff that is going on there right now?

Sweden is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. I often get the question if it is not cold in Sweden? It is at the same latitude as Alaska, but the warm “Gulf stream” in the Atlantic Ocean sweeps warm water and air over Scandinavia and makes the temperatures quite pleasant.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Sweden:
At 450,295 km², Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union in terms of area, with a total population of about 9.2 million. Sweden has a low population density of 21 inhabitants per 54 /sq mi, but a considerably higher density in the southern half of the country. About 85% of the population lives in urban areas, and it is expected that these numbers will gradually rise as a part of the ongoing urbanization.[12] Sweden's capital is Stockholm, which is also the largest city in the country (population of 1.3 million in the urban area and with 2 million in the metropolitan area).

Today, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and a highly developed economy. It ranks first in the world in The Economist's Democracy Index and seventh in the United Nations' Human Development Index. Sweden has been a member of the European Union since 1 January 1995 and is a member of the OECD.

So what is going on in Sweden this year?
The biggest news item right now is “The wedding of the year”. Sweden’s crown princess Victoria is getting married in June. The Swedish people have been waiting for this moment for years. She found her prince many years ago, but he was/is a commoner. There were a lot of issues to be ironed out, but she will finally marry him. The whole country is a part of the wedding plans, so to speak.

Winter Olympics – Sweden took home 11 medals from the winter games in Vancouver, mostly from cross country ski events.

Hans Blix, the outspoken Swedish diplomat who headed the UN investigations of Saddam Hussein’s alleged stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, has been selected chair of International Advisory Board that will provide United Arab Emirates civilian nuclear program with expertise and knowledge.
A Swedish female police officer has been appointed the top cop for the United Nations.
These were just some tidbits from Sweden. Do you have any others to share?

Friday, April 2, 2010

10 tips for working efficiently and productively with a professional translator

Hopefully you are now convinced that using a professional translator is the way to go, and what to look for in a professional translator. When you have a translation project and contact a professional translator, there are some tips to make the project run smoothly and efficiently for both of you.

1. Provide as much information as possible at first contact to receive a faster response from the translator. This includes the subject, language pair (obviously), target audience, length (words, pages etc.), deadline, if there is reference material, if a specific tool should be used, if a project database needs to be used and all information on how to use it.

2. If project is accepted, send the translator a Purchase Order or sign one from the translator. The purchase order should contain a reference number, fee/price, deadline, payment terms, and contact information both for during the project, when the translator has questions, and for after the project for invoicing.

3. Provide a glossary if possible, or ask the professional translator to make one, especially if the project is big.

4. Provide a contact person to answer any questions the translator might have. This contact should be available as much as possible during the project, and be able to find answers in a timely manner. This increases the quality of the final translation.

5. Give formatting guidelines for the final document

6. Provide as much reference material as possible, previous translations, correspondence, glossaries, translation memories, links to websites etc. This also increases the quality of the final translation, since the translator can see what style has been used before, words that are specific for your/this company, more context etc.

7. Have another professional linguist proofread the document. This linguist can be somebody you use, or somebody that the translator works with. Either way, provide the translator with the proofread/edited document with track changes. This is a great feedback tool and learning opportunity for the translator, plus if the translator has final responsibility for the translation, he/she should be able to approve the changes.

8. If you require a rare translation tool (or TEnT), try to provide this tool at a discount, or for free if possible, and provide as much training and material about the tool as you can.

9. Always confirm good receipt of translation, and ask questions or give comments as soon as possible after receipt.

10. Make the invoicing procedure as easy as possible and the earlier you can pay, the happier the translator gets.

If you follow these guidelines you will create a fruitful relationship with your professional translator, and receive high quality translations that can increase your credibility, and boost your business; a win-win situation.

Do you agree with these or is there something missing?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What to look for in a professional translator

Based on the previous blog you are hopefully convinced that to hire a professional translator for a translation job is the right way to go. But how can you tell whether you have found a professional translator or not? Here are some details to pay attention to.

A professional translator is:
- Educated in both source and target languages
- Translating only into his/her native language and is proficient/bilingual in the source language
- Specialized in a few specific subject areas, that usually are closely related to the translator’s background
- Someone with several years of experience in transferring messages from one language to another, either through education and/or work experience
- A good writer
- Experienced in both cultures of the target and source languages
- Passionate about his/her profession and loves to convey the content and intent of the text as exactly as possible to the target language, with appropriate style and terminology.
- Giving attention to detail
- Courteous, reliable, respectful, honest, responsible and competent.

Did I forget something? Do you agree? Please share!

13 more time management tips

Today I will continue on the subject of time management. I found 13 more tips that are very easy to follow on Zen Habits: These tips makes it easier to get the most important things done during a day and have more time for things that are not related to work and it also points out the importance of having time for non work related things. I hope you enjoy these easy tips!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why you should hire a professional translator

This subject has been discussed in many different forums, but deserves repeating, especially these days when machine translation is a very popular subject.

Machine translations can work for some projects, but most translations require a real linguist in order to get the sentence structure, subject matter, cultural aspects, and above all, grammar correct. Many linguists also refuse to proofread or edit a machine translation, simply because it is easier to just retranslate the whole thing.

But perhaps you have a bilingual working in your company and you think that you could use this person to translate your documents? Is bilingual enough? No, in most cases not.

In order to get your message across to your target audience you need to hire a professional translator. Here are the reasons why:

Being bilingual is not enough
Someone may speak two languages well enough to communicate with native speakers, but the skills demanded of translators go beyond effective communication.

It's not only words
Translators must bridge linguistic and cultural gaps between two groups that cannot speak the same language. This means translating concepts, instead of providing a literal word-for-word version. If it is required to translate documents or to carry on negotiations with a foreign partner, then an incorrect translation (accidentally or due to lack of knowledge) can threaten the business venture with failure.

Language is a living being
Professional linguists must continuously study their working languages, because the body of spoken and written words used by native speakers is constantly evolving.

Computers can read it, but they just don't get it
Regardless of advances in technology, computers cannot replace translators. Obviously, computers are capable of compiling extremely large databases and providing a translation for a given word or expression within a split second and that is a lot faster than a human brain. However, computers cannot read between the lines and interpret the shades of meaning.

It takes a lot of research
A single word may mean different things according to the context. Love may be many wonderful things in a romantic way, but it represents a score of zero in a tennis match. Knowledge comes with experience and being familiar with the given field is of utmost importance. Translators with a strong background in one or more areas, as either professionals or enthusiasts, can provide a better version for an original material dedicated to that specific segment.

Speaking to a real audience
Translators are not only committed to providing their clients with the best services they can provide. They must also have the target audience in mind, for readers will be the end users of their product.

Many of these points have been well described by Word Awareness ( Do you have any other reasons that are not on this list? Please share! Next time I will discuss what constitutes a professional translator more in detail.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time management – No more excuses for freelancers

As a freelancer, I always try to manage my time better; the distractions when working at home can be many, there is housework, pets, gardens, outdoor recreation, not to mention social media. Freelancers have great liberties when it comes to scheduling their time, as long as the job gets done, right?

My normal schedule looks like this:
- 6:30 Wake up, prepare kids lunches and breakfasts, eat breakfast and hustle them off to school.
- 7:30 Check email and social media
- 8:00 Work
- 10:00 Exercise (run, yoga etc.)
- 11:30 Lunch
- 12:00-3:30 Working hard
- 3:30 Kids get home from school, eat a snack and help with homework
- 4:30-5:30 Work
- 5:30-7:30 Dinner and family activities
- 8:30 Finish up work, social media

This is a good day, but I also have to throw in mommy taxi, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, grocery shopping, etc and I often end up working late in the evenings to “catch up”. Needless to say I have been studying all the time management tips I can find.

Here are some time management and organizational tips that I want to share:
· Set fixed working hours and stick to them. Do not allow housework, errands etc. into this time.
· Limit time you spend checking email, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., but if you hit a slump in work motivation, get out of your chair and have a snack, do some laundry or socialize for a short time.
· Get an office at home and close the door when you are working. This limits distractions.
· Tell your family and friends about your work hours and ask that they respect them.
· Learn to say no. Don’t take on too much
· Think like a business. Just because you are working from home does not mean you can take on all sorts of volunteer work or help out at school, church etc. all the time. One of the perks with working from home is that you can do this if you want to and have time to, but set limits.
· Organize!!! Create a filing system, both for electronic files, paper, email etc and always use it. Read and file right away. Create a project management system. This can be an electronic calendar, a “traditional” paper calendar, project management software etc. Find something that works for you.
· Create To do-lists and follow them. Prioritize, check off and add new tasks every day.
· Use “The 50 minute focus technique”. Focus intently on a project for 50 minutes without interruption and then unplug and take a 20 minute break.
· Consider hiring virtual assistants to handle administrative tasks and other chores so you can focus more on project work
· Outsource stuff that you are not good at or do not like doing. I for example have outsourced house cleaning and accounting.
· Schedule time to relax. Just as it is important to schedule your work time, it is also important to schedule time to do things that relaxes you and reenergizes you.

These are some of the tips I have learned or collected over the years. Do you have any other tips that I have forgotten? Please share!

This all looks good on paper, but can be hard to implement in reality sometimes. Recently I got introduced to the website/software “rescue time”. ( Here you can download an application that tracks your time, and if you choose to use the paid version you can also program it to block out certain media during certain hours. I have now used it for a week and it is an eye opener. I easily get sucked in to social media for example, and this one tells you how much. Here are the results from my week:

This dashboard shows me my productivity, efficiency and what kind of work and distractions I have been spending time on. Notice the tall pillar on the left? That is Facebook activity during the week. Hmmm…… At least the productive pillar on the right is equally as high, but…

I find this tool very useful for documenting my time and hopefully it will also lead to better time management. Comments? Questions?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Useful links for marketing your freelance translation business

I will continue on my marketing focus a bit more. During my quest to become an entrepreneurial linguist I have stumbled upon a few web resources that I found very useful. Here are some of them:

Shoestring Marketing – tips for free marketing

Free press release – write and publish press releases for free

The Wealthy Freelancer – lots of business tips for freelancers

Mombizcoach – for all of you who try to balance being a mom and an entrepreneur

SEO Wizardry – a blog with tons of tips on how to use social media

Rescue time - a nifty little tool for all of you who get sucked in to all the social media, you are using, email or just browsing. This will keep track of what you spend your time on and if you choose the paid version you can set the program to block you from certain things on the web during certain time periods.

Keepass - a free open-source password manager for all the passwords we have these days

Mozy - online backup of your computer, free or low cost, easy to manage and does not suck your memory or hard drive while backing up.

I also know a lot of great translator bloggers that I will share later on. Do you have any sites where you find useful business information? Please share!

Strategic Marketing of Translation Services

This is a book I found online by accident and I am glad I did. It is rare to find a marketing book targeted to translators. "The Insiders Guide to Strategic Marketing of Translation Services, by A.M. Sall is just that. As a freelancer or a small translation business it is important to market your services in order to thrive. This book give you “The 7 Parts of an Effective Strategic Translation Service Marketing System”, starting with building your moral and intellectual armors and creating a marketing mindset. Not every linguist is born with a marketing mindset, right? Then the book tells you how to create a marketing plan and do market research. It also introduces its own “Strategic Translation Services Marketing System”. You get valuable information about how to submit to portals, directories, translation agencies and how to create publicity for yourself. I found the book very useful and it gives lots of examples and practical advice. You can find the book at and you can preview the first section for free. The book can be downloaded directly from the site for $18.75, but sssshh… don’t tell anyone. We do not want everyone to become great at marketing their language services do we?

Can translators be entrepreneurial?

That thought did not cross my mind when I first started out as a freelance translator seven years ago. Translators are linguists and more creative. Sure, my educational background is in international marketing and my professional background in product marketing, but I never thought to apply this directly onto my freelance business, at least not consciously. Granted my freelancing business has thrived, but me an entrepreneur? Nah....

Until now! Yesterday I had a consultation session with the translator colleague and entrepreneur Judy Jenner under the subject "The Entrepreneurial Linguist". Judy believes that freelance translators are entrepreneurs running their own business and need to think like entrepreneurs too. The session was packed with marketing advice and business planning and gave me lots of practical tips on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

Here is my entrepreneurial to do list:
- do a SWOT-analysis on me and Swedish Translation Services
- define my competitive advantage
- define my ideal clients
- update my website to attract my ideal clients
- search engine optimization
- create marketing texts
- get media coverage
- create a local and global marketing strategy

I cannot wait to get started on this and looking forward to nurturing my business and business thinking. Thanks Judy!

Judy Jenner runs her translation business together with her twin sister Dagmar and she also does business consultation, publishes articles and gives presentations on translation and entrepreneurship. For more information, go to