Post 14: 7 smart strategies for CPD – Guest post (Kasia Pranke)

Disclaimer: I’m really excited about today’s post! CPD is always a hot topic in the world of professional freelance translation, so when your translator BFF and CPD guru offers to write a post on her insights into the topic for your blog, well, only a fool would refuse. Many of you will have seen Kasia’s previous interview here on Bella Lingo, but for those of you have not had the privilege of meeting this lovely lady, you can pop on over to her webpage by clicking here. Take it away, Kasia…




Some time ago I proudly added the Committed to Professional Development badge to my website. Yes, I’m a bit of a CPD addict, so adding the badge felt more than appropriate. But only recently, when proofreading the Polish version of the CPD manifesto did I feel like it was time to reflect on this area once again. So here are some of my thoughts on the topic.


Be strategic before…

Make sure that before spending money you specify your goals. According to research, only about 5% of us actually write down our goals and those are the ones who succeed in achieving them.

I remember a time when I would enroll for any course or workshop vaguely related to my areas of interest. While it may not be such a bad idea at the beginning of your CPD journey, in a while you may realise that you need a clearer focus. Plan your CPD budget for a year and stick to it. There are a lot of good courses, but also a lot of junk out there. Make conscious decisions why not to ask former course participants for their opinions and experiences?

…and after

Take time to record your CPD activities, review and reflect upon them. It is as important (if not more) as attending training itself. For this purpose you can, for example, use the CPD form offered by the CIOL (Chartered Institute of Linguists) or you can create your own.

Think how can you utilise the newly gained knowledge and skills in your business from day one.

And show it to the world! Share it with your clients and fellow linguists by updating your social media profiles, CVs, promotional materials – how about writing a blog post with a review of the training you’ve just attended?



Be smart

Information is everywhere – sometimes you just need to look around. Check what’s on offer from your local university or college, if there are any valuable events happening nearby. Don’t forget about online resources such as MOOCs (for example: Coursera or Future Learn).

Think like a business owner

Which brings us back to the strategic thinking. Remember that time is money, so before hitting the ‘register’ button to attend yet another event ask yourself:

  • What areas do I need to improve?
  • Do I really need to learn it or can I hire someone to do it for me?
  • Can I justify another day spent out of office?


Be a lifelong learner

If you haven’t noticed it yet it’s a must in our business. Being a linguist is all about continuous development. Technology is changing, so is the type of content we translate  and I think that constant challenges and striving for perfection is what makes our job so exciting and fulfilling. It’s one of these professions which requires you to stay up-to-date with the current trends. Perhaps that is why only the highly motivated are able to survive on the market and become well-rounded professionals.

Give back

By sharing what you have learnt with other linguists you not only self-promote and advocate for yourself, but also you make difference to other freelancers by helping to raise standards and strengthen the whole industry. Finally, teaching is also a very enriching experience and you can be sure you will learn a lot from your audience, readers or students. It can be as simple as sharing your CPD experiences on social media or your blog.

It’s not all about work

I don’t know about you, but I love learning new skills. No matter if it’s for professional purposes or purely for fun. Any new subject, from doing yoga to crafts, allows my mind to relax and to reflect on my skills in other areas…and also my professional work. So even when my diary is packed, I make sure I fit in some non-work related training.


I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any strategy in place when it comes to training? What are you professional development plans for this year?


Post 13: Flirting with Freelancing?

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”Newt Gingrich

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably been gingerly or ambitiously flirting with the notion of one day becoming a freelancer; releasing the shackles of employment and the day-to-day office grind to dedicate your 9-5 to that brilliant million dollar concept you’ve been scheming up while your colleagues bore you with the latest annual report or office goss. Perhaps your motivation is more straightforward; now’s the right time to finally align your career with your hard-earned education and passions, as opposed to the plodding along in the job you landed in by chance or misfortune. Or maybe you’re tickled pink by working in the comfort of your own kitchen, in your fluffy onesie without Big Brother monitoring how many toilet breaks you’ve taken or urging you to get back to Heidi in Vienna about that shipping delay. Whatever your reason for the change may be, it seems that with 15% of the UK’s population in self-employment (2014) according to the Office of National Statistics, in comparison with 13% in 2010, freelancing is becoming an increasingly attractive option for men and women alike.

In my case, self-employment was a career step I’d been forging behind the scenes as I toiled at my desk job. For 2 years my daily routine consisted of coming home from work and well…starting to work again, beavering away on the laptop translating until the wee small hours. In short, burning the candle at both ends while the circumference of the dark circles under my eyes increased and my social life descended into non-existence, but over that period I did manage to build up a cash reservoir allowing me to make the transition to full-time translator as financially secure, smooth and fearless  as possible. That said, at the time I was (and, at times, still am) scared stiff at this solo voyage into self-employment.

“It seems the harder I work, the more luck I have.” —Thomas Jefferson

Have all the toil and the tears been worth it? Well, 2 years into it, in my case I do believe the grafting, groundwork and forward-planning is paying off. The first year could be summed up as a journey into testing my personal and professional limits, learning how to market my services properly, building up a client base and pressing snooze on the 7am ringer on my alarm clock. Who knew how easily a 5 minute snooze could turn into a 2 hour lie-in when you know there’s nobody waiting for you in the office?!

Aside from acclimatising to the shiny new routine and role of The Big Boss catapulted to the helm of your own ship, evidently, and as this nervous twenty-something learnt, you will face responsibilities and concerns with which only a boss should principally be concerned, for example, (DISCLAIMER: I am about to p*ss all over your entrepreneurial parade with these realities), no new orders, late or non payment, a cantankerous customer or an impending tax return, to name but a few. And despite the Hollywood movie representation of the business owner jet-setting from London to Madrid to Shanghai for crucial sales meetings, I can assure you that It Is Not Like That. However, while there are no promises regarding success, it is isn’t all admin and angst either. In fact, self-employment incorporates a series of benefits that, depending on our business, we’d probably be hard-pushed to find else where:

  • Incomparable flexibility: need to get the kids out the door before you can focus on your task? No problem. Need to finalise a project at the weekend. Knock yourself out! You can set your own working hours.
  • Work from wherever you like: not too fond of plugging away at home each day? With co-working and coffee shops** endowed with free WiFi, it’s easier than ever to mix up your routine, meet real humans (other than your relatively human family members) and beat the boredom and/or distractions of working from home.
  • Financial gains: you’ve no real limit on what you can earn, and I mean that in the sense that you’re at liberty to set your own rates for your work using your own criteria. Within reason, that is. You might see a few a few raised eyebrows if you try to charge a well above average market fee for half-assed work..
  • Variety of work: one thing I enjoy is the variety of different projects I receive. Although I specialise in translations on travel and tourism, food and wine and on the whole I mainly receive that kind of  work, it’s refreshing to translate an international development article or to subtitle an ad. A week of translating company annual reports though… not so enlightening, I’m afraid.
  • Variety of people: the odd ratty or demanding customer is inevitable. We all have off days, don’t we? However, with my hand on my heart I can say that 99% of people I meet (or e-meet) through my work are friendly, sincere and considerate professionals. Some of them have become trustworthy colleagues. Even friends. Honestly!

All in all, your freelance business is like Rome: not built in a day. And not built on a whim either. It takes plenty of legwork to craft your empire; forward-planning, knowledge of your sector, experience, a proper business infrastructure (which will vary from freelancer to freelancer), and the brazen nerve to unashamedly go after clients. Not to mention the most important foundation of all: the continuous discipline required to consistently get the work done – signed, sealed and delivered – and get paid! Plus if you can come up with a strong strategy to steer clear from falling into bottomless distraction pits such as Facebook and the biscuit tin, then you’ve overcome one of the biggest challenges. How many Jaffa Cakes have I scoffed this morning? Not sure, but just another 5 mins on Twitter and I’ll get back to work. Ok?


**Always be careful working on open networks, esp. regarding confidentiality issues.


Post 12: My Discoveries of 2015!

Happy New Year all!

Over the festive season, I decided to work for just a few hours each day on light projects and not to take on big projects for that period, a decision which has greatly benefited me. My back has enjoyed not being slouched in a seat over a desk and my eyes have been given a rest from the hideous blue light of the computer screen. My batteries are now fully charged and I’m ready and raring to have a great year, both personally and professionally. These holidays gave me a chance to think over a few things in my working and personal life that I’d like to implement or change (and also to beat myself up about the amount of daft things I did in 2015!). Alongside that, I realised that I have been influenced by a lot of online blogs, YouTubers, coaches, books and courses. I decided I would share a couple of these with you today!

People and things I’ve discovered/ re-discovered in 2015:

  1. Denise Duffield-Thomas. Denise helps women entrepreneurs to get over money-blocks and start living a guilt-free first class personal and entrepreneurial life. Her cheekily named website , and Periscope (see below) videos have been key to help me regarding enjoyment pricing and costs in my business.
  2. Marie Forleo. I discovered Marie through YouTube and I can’t get enough of Marie TV, her YouTube channel, and, of course, her Q&A Tuesday, where she answers the questions on the lips of her inquisitive viewers, questions that are common to a lot of entrepreneurs, young and old. Marie gives her expert advice coupled with her professional views based on her own experience. Her mantra is “Create a business and life you love”, and Marie’s videos really do offer steps to doing this. She is the personification of a happy, successful and balanced life. She also runs the Marie Forleo B School to help increase profit by using your own unique set of skills to their fullest potential.
  3. Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the highlights of my year was Roisin Ingle (Irish Times) in conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert in Liberty Hall Dublin – such a real, no BS, and inpirational evening, and a privilege to share the evening with other similar-minded women. Some of you may know Elizabeth as the writer of Eat, Pray, Love, or maybe more so because of the movie version with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. Elizabeth is an intelligent and irreverent soul who writes about genius and creativity. Her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is one of my favourite books of 2015. In it she expounds upon the challenges to embrace our inquisitiveness, get to grips with what we most love and face up to everything that we fear. She has a gifted voice, and really dares readers to delve into their curiosity.
  4. Oprah. When I was very young I used to watch her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show when I got back home after school. I had no clue who she was and definitely had no inkling of the success she has had or her wealth. She is a fountain of triumph, kind-heartedness and shows that turning most to any situations from bad to good is entirely possible. You can also be generous, empowered and not get walked all over at the same time. The type of attitude I’m trying to aspire to in 2016. I hope to watch more of her Super Soul Sunday programme.
  5. Lena Dunham. Creator of the HBO hit show Girls. Her book Not That Kind of Girl is a very honest and hilarious memoir. She is a real creative inspiration and empowering lady. And I get the feeling that she just tells things as they are.
  6. The Freelance Box. We held a TFB run by Marta Stelmaszak and Valeria Aliperta in Belfast back in May. The one day course offered excellent practical marketing and sales strategies and techniques for translators and interpreters who have already or are thinking of setting up their own business.
  7. SDL Trados 2014 – and actually using it every day! Turns out bloggers and those commenting in online forums weren’t lying about its usefulness. I had the 2011 version and I rarely used it, except for big jobs with lots of obviously repeated text. I haven’t quite gotten used to all of the 2014 version’s functionalities, but I’m getting there, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine a working without it. My best business buy of 2015!
  8. Daily Motivation podcast. Introduced to me by my besty Charlotte, I have to admit that I haven’t gotten fully into it yet, but listening to one of these enthusiastic and encouraging podcasts  in the morning before getting to my desk is a great way to build up self-confidence before getting down to the daily grind. They offer daily tips and ideas on how to make pragmatic small and large changes in your life, in order to move in a more positive direction towards the life you want to live.
  9. Persicope. A live streaming app for IOS and Android that allows you to watch and broadcast live video (yes, in actual real time), so it allows the user to feel like they are almost in the same room/ at the same scene as the broadcaster. You can also ask questions to the broadcaster too, and give them hearts to show you agree with them! I’m not 100% sure how I could use this for business purposes but that’s an avenue I hope to explore soon.


Everyone knows I’m not a huge technology fan, but I must admit that if it hadn’t been for the internet and sharing facilities on social media, I would never have come across the above. The 9 things listed above have greatly influenced my working and professional life and helped me to develop my skills and attitude enormously. What were your favourite discoveries of 2015? I’d love know about them and how they’ve affected you. Maybe they can be my discoveries of 2016!

To end, I wish all my colleagues and friends a very happy and prosperous 2016. I hope it will be an excellent year for you.


Post 11: Full-time freelancer: one year on…

November ’15 marks my 1st year running a full-time translation business. During this time on a number of occasions I’ve been asked why I decided to quit my full-time job to pursue life as a freelancer/ self-employed translator/ business owner (insert whichever noun you like implying “working for myself”), so here’s an insight.

In this day in age, the decision to venture out on your own is received by different people in a variety of ways, as anything from ballsy to interesting, from smart-move to downright bananas!

But, I am pleased to say that my first year could be described as so far, so good.

There is no doubt that freelancing was certainly a plunge into the realms of the unknown. I’ve had to get used to bookkeeping, coping with deadlines, self-motivation, loneliness (working at home can be very quiet), finding my own clients, and the lack of contact with other human beings. Challenges on their own, never mind combined!

That said, however, the number of plus points are infinite: flexibility, being able to spend more time with my loved-ones, being my own boss, and doing what I am meant to do (I believe!)…I could go on.

In short, anyone who knows me will tell you that, like my colleagues, I’m a “languages person”. From a young age, my favourite hobby was to help my great aunt Lil with her crosswords. And when I started learning languages at school, began discovering new cultures and did my first exchange to Granada, I was convinced & excited that my future studies and career would be in this field, for better or for worse. So at 16 years old, I made a commitment to languages, vowing never to let them escape from my life.

After one year in full-time business, I’d like to say a huge thank you, gracias, merci and danke to everyone who has supported me. I cannot explain how much your kind words, encouragement and advice mean to me. Here’s to another great year!

Thank You, script lettering

Post 10: But Marty, I need the translation… yesterday!

Today is an epic day! No, it’s not my wedding day and it isn’t Christmas Day either…

It’s October 21st, 2015: the day that Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future. It’s the future!

This morning Twitter has been abound with awesome pics, memes, videos and hashtags about the movie, but one that particularly caught my eye due to its relevance to the translation industry was an image with the Doc and the DeLorean, tweeted by audiovisual and literary translator Scheherezade Surià on her Twitter accompanied by a hilarious text in Spanish, stating: “Súbete, Marty. El cliente necesita la traducción para ayer.” (Translation: Hop in, Marty. The client needs the translation yesterday).

traduccion para ayer regroalfuturo

Image courtesy of Scheherezade Surià López


As translators, we often joke (or let out a nervous cackle) about tight deadlines and demands. When I started as a freelancer, receiving an email with a subject line stating “URGENT TRANSLATION” typically caused the following reaction:

fear> panic> itching> rash all over face> panic again> is the Earth spinning 100 mph?> dizziness> yep, the Earth is definitely spinning at 200 mph> sky darkening> apocalypse> keel over> die.




Well not quite…

But I would open that email with a shaky hand and certain trepidation. Thankfully I’ve gotten over that. 

So for argument’s sake let’s say that email contains a large translation for the next day; and I mean large, not unrealistic. I’m not referring to the ridiculous emails for 180,000 words for 8am the next day – there are some cases that are just impossible to handle in a short amount of time. 

So, after the sweating has stopped there are a couple of things we can do. We could reply saying: Impossible to do that for tomorrow. End of. Personally I could never take this blunt approach for a million different reasons, including, fear of losing face and the client. Us translators are rarely Beyoncé – rarely Irreplaceable – unless we have a solid specialisation in the client’s field.


A freelance translator is a business person, (yes, you are, whether you like it or not) an entrepreneur, if you like, and this job title implies being prepared to provide solutions to problems, and a commitment to helping our clients to move to the next step in their business, even if at times they cause inconvenience.

So how can we help our client conquer that urgent job?  Well, you wonderful entrepreneur, you’ll have to think quickly and logically!  Our objective should be to help the get the job done as well as possible, while remaining positive, professional and poised and not losing track of our other projects – a bit of a juggling act! But in some cases, you do not have to do it alone.

Here are some ideas to help you out and questions to reflect on:

  • Can you change your schedule to fit in the translation and still be able to provide high-quality work and meet your other deadlines? Are you able to work a few extra hours that evening to get it done without compromising the end product? If this answer is yes, then problem solved!
  • If the request is from a direct client, can you split the translation with a trusted colleague or colleagues who work(s) in the same area and language pair? Normally, the client will not mind; they are primarily interested in receiving a fit-for-purpose translation on time. (Note: with agencies this is a no-no, unless it has been agreed on with your PM).
  •  Can you refer your client to one of your trusted colleagues? Or can you project manage it for the client? Your colleague can translate it and you take care of the proofreading.


Let’s be honest: urgent requests can be terrifying if we deal with them in the panicky way detailed above, and can result in a freelancer cancelling or postponing other plans, and,  WARNING dealing with them on a day-in-day-out basis can lead to bitterness, lack of job satisfaction and burn out. But why do urgent translation requests occur? There are a number of reasons:

  • Clients (mine, at least) do not have telepathic powers. They do not have access to my weekly schedule, so they have no idea about when I am free. We can’t blame them if they need a translation when we happen to have crammed-schedules.
  • Lack of understanding about how long a translation takes. Perhaps a client is experiencing their first foray into translating their documentation, meaning that they do not have a realistic perception of turnarounds.
  • Disorganisation. No matter how organised we are from time to time (and more often) things slip our minds, or a document from a colleague arrives late, postponing everything that follows including the translation.



So how can we deliver the urgent document on time without feeling bitter, resentful and worked into the ground?

There are a couple of things we can do to soften the blow of an urgent job:

  • When you begin working with a client, send some type of “How I Work” documentation where you state how many words or pages you can handle per day and how much notice you need for a project, therefore, you set realistic expectations. Evidently, this is all idealistic, as often clients do not read or remember it. However, in the event that you’re sent one of these “translations for yesterday”, you can refer them to the document detailing  your words capacity per day on it. When agencies ask translators to fill out applications, they often ask for your capacity of words per day, so they are aware of their suppliers’ capabilities.
  • Add your rush fee for urgent projects. If you have to work late and put in extra hours, shift other work or burn the candle at both ends, then add a supplement for urgency. This may mean upping your rate from 0.08p per word to 0.10p per word, as an example. Or it could simply be tacking on an extra £10 per hour (again, as an example). Make sure the client agrees on this before hand. You could even send them a document to confirm this, have them sign it and send it back. I do not particularly like rush jobs, so extra remuneration for my efforts sweetens the deal for me. 

Back when I just started out I would have bent over backwards to please a client, but now I realise that there are more measured and logical approaches that culminate in happy translator and satisfied client.  Managing to strike this balance in rush job situations is tricky, but for me, going the extra mile and compromising is worth it, as long as it does not lead to resentment and burn-out. 

I’d guess that Marty McFly would simply hop in his DeLorean (made in Belfast, by the way) and have that translation ready for yesterday. But what do you do when you receive a rush job? I’d love to know how you tackle these situations. Please share your comments in the section below.





Post 9: How to market yourself for free (or very little) without using social media

Thankfully in this day and age, freelancers and SMEs can market their services at a relatively low-cost. With social media, online translation job boards and workplaces and the right know-how, it is easier to effectively advertise what you do for free. Gone are the days of taking out Yellow Pages ads, and unless you are a massive corporation, there’s no need to brandish your company’s logo over a billboard on the motorway. And you certainly don’t need to plaster yourself over the side of an inner city bus à la Carrie Bradshaw (phew)!

carrie bradshawNo need!

Starting out can be tough, and initially it’s difficult to know how much of your time and budget should be allocated to marketing. Finding the marketing strategy that works for you can often be a matter of trial and error – and that’s perfectly normal and acceptable. You can add and remove ingredients from your marketing mix until you’ve found a recipe that works. Here are 4 of my top tips on how to market yourself for free or very little aside from using social media.

  1. Word of mouth. Everyone around you should know you’re a translator: from your granny to your neighbour, from the guy in the bookshop in town to the manager at your local chamber of commerce. You don’t need to give them a whole spiel, but you can have perfectly crafted elevator pitch at the ready (see my post coming up on elevator pitches for translators). Remember at this point you are not trying to sell to anyone (the window cleaner your chatting with is probably not in the market for translations), but rather raise awareness about what you do and make them remember you. They may suggest you to a friend or family member who is in the business.
  2.  Networking events. Your local chamber of commerce, business centres and business associations will often run networking breakfasts, lunches and other meetings. These present great chances to meet people. To get the most out of each event, find out who the attendees are in advance, pinpoint those who you could work with, make a point of introducing yourself to them at the event, give them a business card and send a follow-up email a few days after. In addition, networking is also a great way to get introductions to others professionals and businesses. You’ll know when the moment is right to ask one professional to introduce you to another that you’d like to work with. When we aren’t used to networking then it can be tricky and there will be mindset obstacles to overcome; we begin to feel shy, want to back out, forget names, even our own, get nervous and maybe even spill a hot cup of tea all over the most important person in the room (yes, at my first networking event I did that)! Little by little it does get easier.
  3. Blogging. Us translators talk and write a lot, so why not write down your thoughts on translation and the industry? Posts that bear your name and are linked back to your website will improve your SEO ranking and help to consolidate your online profile. Does it require time and dedication? Yes, it certainly does. On the plus side, however, with engaging material, it is a sure-fire way to give yourself exposure and build up a community of translator-readers who could potentially become clients. Not decided? Feeling uninspired? See this post I wrote earlier this month on Kasia Pranke’s blog.
  4. Email signature.  Sign off all your emails with your name, company, position, and how to get in touch. Some people chose to add their phone number or a photo of themselves and nowadays others include a call to action. Not only will a cleverly designed and effective one leave a professional impression, but it’ll also add to your credibility. Keep it brief and concise. No need to write your life story down there – save that for your juicy best seller! And remember to test your new signature before you use it on your client email. You’ll find more information about email signatures by clicking here.

Have you tried any other free marketing tools that do not involve social media? How successful have they been for you? As usual I’d love to hear from you, especially those who’ve used infographic CVs, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Post 8: What you can do during slow periods in your translation business

As freelancers we are in the fortunate (and sometimes unfortunate) position of being in the driving seat when it comes to our careers; we push the buttons to make our own careers and own money. Most of the time being a freelancer gives us great (you guessed it) freedom to organise our work schedules as we see fit. And a common complaint is that there simply are not enough hours in the day to complete all our work. However, the opposite is also true; there are times when the work simply is not flowing constantly and this can be even more challenging from an emotional as well as financial point of view. To combat this we could sit at computers hitting refresh on our inbox to see if any new emails have arrived, but for the sake of our own sanity I would advise against it! (Been there; success rate: 0). I would, however, advocate a proactive approach. Below you will find some tips on what to do when your translation business hits a slow period, most of which have been tried and tested by yours truly over the past 4 years.

  • Email the agencies who normally send you work and let them know you have availability at that time. Just a simple few lines will do. As project managers  mainly allocate jobs based on availability, by sending a short and concise email you’re giving the PM a helping hand. You’re putting yourself in the forefront of their minds too.
  • Follow up with your direct clients. Seek feedback on the most recent project you helped them on and ask them for testimonials that you could add to your website (to attract new clients).
  • Chase up on unpaid bills (banter – I know!) and clients who you have sent a quote to, but haven’t gotten back to you yet.
  • Review your CV. This is a perfect time to update it, add your latest courses and experience to it.
  • Review your marketing material for direct clients (or design some if you haven’t already).
  • Review or create your portfolio of work. Some agencies ask for sample translations before they hire you, so it’s useful and time-efficient to have this on hand if need be. Always remember to politely ask your client for permission to use the translated material for the purposes of your portfolio. Stay clear of using names and sensitive information.
  • Remember that blog you started and then abandoned after a few months? (Ahem, *points finger at self*). Well, it’s time to revisit, revive and refresh it. Look for new ideas for posts, organise your old posts and why not contact fellow translators with a view to interviewing them on a guest post. People love being interviewed ‘  it’s flattering! Or maybe it’s time to start a blog. Check out Blogstarter for some key tips on how to get going on a blogging platform.
  • Organise your computer desktop and back-up files you require onto an external hard drive.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, look into its new features and how they could potentially help you to do business.
  • Check if there are business networking events or events specific to your area of specialisation happening nearby and buy a ticket. Over the next few days you can get prepared to attend.
  • How about having new headshots taken for your website and professional profiles?
  • Most translators tend to be avid readers, so I’m sure you have a ton of translation books piled up just waiting for you to get stuck into them, so why not start? When you finish it you could even review it on your blog (you can thank me later for that idea!).
  • And in addition to being bookaholics, we generally love to learn new information. Why not plan your CPD for the rest of the year? See this post on the importance of continuous professional development in our career as a guide (yup, shameless plug).
  • It could also be a good time to take a break and recharge your batteries, dedicate more time to a hobby or take up a new one.
  • And last but not least, my favourite tip: de-clutter your office, bedroom, kitchen, wardrobe or desk (wherever really) and sell unwanted goods online or at a car boot sale. Alternatively just send a bin liner full to your local charity shop or a good cause (If you are based near Belfast, I can collect your stuff and send it to a worthwhile cause). Doing this helps me to clear my mind and regain focus before starting into work-related tasks.

And by the time you’ve checked off one of the tips above, Murphy’s law will probably have kicked into action – you’ll check your inbox and, hey presto,  a juicy little translation request just dying to be opened will be waiting on you!

What about you? What do you do when you experience a quiet period? Do you have any other suggestions you could add to this list. As usual, I’d love to hear from you! Write your comment in the section below 🙂 imageJust some of the books I’ll be reading or finishing soon. Yes, they are levitating 😉

Post 7: Translating is not the only thing translators can do…

The idea for this blog post came from an excellent presentation given by Isabel Espuelas at the conference held in Barcelona in December 2014 entitled Traducir no es lo único que puede hacer un traductor (Translation is not the only thing a translator can do). 

Isabel explained that while there are many of us who actually enjoy spending the whole day in front of the computer, translating and producing beautiful documents (can I get whoop-whoop for us desk slaves who love doing this?!), there are other translators among us who for whatever reason (contact with others, economic motivations, etc.) prefer to combine translation with another discipline. And that variety is spice of this wonderful life! Isabel gave the example of Scheherezade Surià, who incorporates audiovisual and literary translation with giving English classes. Isabel herself is another example of this; she felt that she had solid business skills she could take advantage of as a translator, and so she started up as a translation project coordinator. During her presentation, Isabel gave us an insightful look into her world and delved deep into the how to coordinating clients’ projects effectively as well as how to look after your team of translators. I would highly recommend watching video of her whole presentation (Spanish), which can be seen here: (courtesy of Gabriel Cabrera). When it comes to diversification, this is a really inspiring video!

This got me thinking about translator friends, whose professional lives involve translation and other interesting projects too. So, I’ll stop talking (writing) now and hand you over to Martine Hansen of MIH Consulting. Martine is a NO>SP, SV and NO<>EN translator and interpreter, who combines these skills with language teaching and being a tourist guide. She is originally from Norway and has been living in Barcelona since 2010.


Martine Hansen MIH Consulting Email: LinkedIn:
Martine Hansen
MIH Consulting

Martine, when did you feel you would like to do something as well as translating and why?

I always felt like I wanted to do other things as well as translating. Being a translator means that you have to dominate the languages you work with at a very high level, at native level, so you need to use those languages as much as possible. The more I used my languages in other areas, the more I can apply my knowledge and understanding to my translation work . When I was studying Translation and Interpreting, I knew that I wanted to do other things as well as translation, so I would be in constant “evolution”, let’s say, towards my goal of being a professional translator and I could apply what I learnt to my future work. This was my real motivation.


What else you do in addition to translating?

I’m the main Norwegian teacher at a Scandinavian school called Institut Nòrdic in Barcelona. I teach Norwegian language, history and culture to adults of all ages who want to go to Norway to work or who want to learn the language for other reasons. Right now I have 8 different classes at all levels, and also give some private lessons.

On top of teaching, I also work as a guide from time to time. I work with a couple of travel agencies, and I guide groups of Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and English speakers in Barcelona. It can vary from walking tours, bus or bike tours, or tapas tours, or just picking them up from the airport and accompanying them to their hotel or a restaurant. I love helping them to communicate with the local people and interpreting for them when we come Spanish or Catalan speakers.

Being a tour guide also gives me the chance to use my knowledge to help others, and last but not least, the chance to get out of the house! Translating is a very lonely job, sometimes you need variety and to be among other human beings!


Did you come across any obstacles at the beginning of your professional trajectory?  How did you overcome them?

Yes, I did. I think the main obstacle was, without doubt, understanding how to get established and how to work as an self-employed freelancer. There are a lot of rules and laws you need to comply with regarding finance, billing, taxes, VAT and accounting and it is sometimes difficult to access this information. And another obstacle finding clients. In the beginning I had to do a lot of marketing to get my name out know there. However, with the right accountant and the advice from other professionals in the same situation, I managed to overcome these barriers. Most importantly I dedicated a lot of time and hard work to this, which is an absolutely essential if you work as a freelancer! I’d advise newbies to look into all of these aspects before setting up!

What does a typical day in your life consist of? Is every day different?

Yes, every day is different – I love the variety. One day I may wake up early in the morning to work on translations, then later on, I give a couple of private lessons and then in the evening give classes at the school until 10.00 pm. But other days, if I don’t have classes, I might be able to get up later, and as well as translating, I go and pick up a group for a guided tour. The only thing regular events in schedule each week are normally the hours I teach at the school, as the students have classes on the same day every week. Some weeks I also have to work during the weekends.


Do you work in a team or with outsourcers? Do you find this advantageous? 

I am part of a team at the language school, as we are all teachers and often discuss methodology and the best possible way to teach an aspect of language. Nevertheless, I don’t generally work in a team, at least not related to the translations. But on the other hand, I often discuss problems and doubts with other trustworthy translators, and they do the same with me. This way we help each other, and this is such a valuable relationship. There are always professionals with more experience than you, so they can help you learn more or point you in the right direction. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I’ll often ask another professional to correct or review  job before I deliver it to my client.


Do you feel like you have developed professionally since you started and what are your goals for the future?

Yes, absolutely. I have developed and learned a lot since I started 2 years ago, and I still learn new things from every project I work on. In this profession, the more you practice and work, the better you get with time.


Would you do anything differently if you were to start again?

No, I don’t think so. I am really happy with what I do now, I am able to work with what I love. And it turned out this way because of the hard work I put in to get here. It certainly is not an easy thing to do, but it is very rewarding!


Martine, thank you very much for your time and this valuable information. If you have any comments on this topic or any questions for Martine, please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear about your freelancing lifestyle.


Now…how do I sign up for those tapas tours?


Post 6: Life as a public service interpreter (2/2)


Following on  from last week’s interview with Kasia Pranke, this week we have the pleasure of welcoming Marianela Trigo. Marianela is a translator, interpreter and language tutor, based near Belfast. Marianela has a wealth of experience as a public service interpreter and shares a true passion for her career in interpreting. Take a look…

Name: Marianela Trigo

Place of origin: Argentina


Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a very artistic and cultural environment in a tiny seaside town called Villa Gesell, near Buenos Aires in Argentina. After completing my studies in Biology at University I left and moved to Spain, when I was 22 years old, motivated by an eagerness to travel. After a few years moving around, completing training and meeting extraordinary people I decided to fly to Ireland were I have been for the last 10 years.

How did your journey as a public service interpreter start?

Given my inner desire to explore our diverse world of societies, traditions, culture and language, I started to work for the Latinoamerica Unida Association in Belfast as a volunteer and then later on as an Information and Community Development Worker.

Through this I gained the experience, knowledge and awareness of the voluntary and community sector and built strong foundations as a bilingual worker. I also became very aware of the difficulties and challenges faced by people who did not speak English.

Increasingly I found that I was being asked by Spanish speaking friends and colleagues to go with them to meetings, or speak to their landlord, phone their internet service provider or translate a letter that they had received and I could see the benefit in their lives from my assistance. From there, it was a natural progression into becoming a full-time interpreter.

What area do you mainly work in? 

Currently the majority of my work is split fairly evenly between the health and the justice sectors although I also carry out interpreting work across the rest of the public sector, including education and social services, as well as private sector work. There are a vast range of jobs that need covered, from medical operations and doctor’s appointments to police interviews, court cases, school meetings and benefit assessments among others.

What attracted you to becoming a public service interpreter and how did you get in to working in the field?

I have always had a strong commitment to social justice and seeing the struggles of the minority communities and being able to help them in any way has always been very rewarding to me on a personal level.

I became aware that the invaluable role played by public service interpreters in peoples’ lives and the significance of face-to-face interactions between service providers and individuals (e.g. patients, witnesses, suspects, etc.) cannot be overestimated. Therefore, the role of an interpreter for non-English speaking individuals is crucial. The everyday needs of people who may be vulnerable and cannot communicate in the language of the country that they are in should not be underestimated. Being able to help people to accurately communicate the status of their health or their legal rights in emergency or life changing situations is a very rewarding challenge.

I am a strong believer in self-development and improvement and since arriving in Ireland I have sought out every opportunity to improve my English. I have taken numerous courses over the years, at different colleges and universities, including OCN Community Interpreting, Interpreting within the Criminal Justice System, Immigration movement and law, Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, etc.

While I really enjoyed the work that I did, I eventually ventured into starting my own business as a freelance Spanish/English Interpreter and Translator. I have not regretted any stage of my journey from Villa Gesell to public sector interpreting despite the high level of motivation, dedication, organisation and hard work required to get there.

Did you find any element particular difficult at first? And anything particularly easy? If so, please elaborate.

Interpreting using the first person was disconcerting at the start until I got used to the confused looks from some doctors, for example. Some seemed to get confused as to whether I was speaking for myself or interpreting for the client and at times I felt that they doubted my abilities. I am now a lot more confident and am happy to explain to them that this is actually the correct procedure as I am really acting as the mouth of the client.

Interpreting in court was also very demanding at first. There you are working in a tense and stressful environment with large distances between one speaker and the other making it hard to hear and difficult to follow what is being said at times. There are rarely any pauses and you usually have to carry out simultaneous interpreting. This is a situation where all your skills are being used to the highest standard as an incorrect interpretation could affect the outcome of the case.

Meeting and introducing myself to new people is something that I have always been comfortable with ,so arriving in new situations on a daily basis was not difficult for me at all. Being professional in the various settings and keeping the confidentiality of the clients was also something that I found particularly easy. In terms of the different jobs I would say that, in general, I found the Housing and Social Security assignments straightforward and uncomplicated.

What aspects do you enjoy most about the job?

Interpreting for the Public Sector means that you never know where your next assignment will take you and you get to meet people from all kinds of backgrounds.

I enjoy it immensely because I feel I am providing a very worthwhile service to the community, especially for those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged. I feel inspired by the linguistic challenges that I am presented with and the constant learning afforded by the different work situations.

Each job provides me with a wealth of knowledge and experience and the satisfaction of knowing that I have such an important role in establishing communication between the Spanish and English speaking worlds.

Do you feel training is important? Why? How do you keep up with CPD?

We live in a constantly changing and developing world and I believe that training is crucial for interpreters.

I have concerns that the privatisation of interpreting services by commercial intermediaries could lead to a rush to use under-trained interpreters which could devalue the profession as a whole. More importantly, though, it could also lead to the incorrect or incomplete transfer of information from client to service provider which could have life changing or life threatening implications for the non-English speaking person. At times I have found that the most basic knowledge of proper interpreting techniques can be lacking. Higher standards for new interpreters and continual professional development are therefore essential to protect and serve the most vulnerable of clients and also the reputation of the service we deliver.

Hence I continue to develop my professional knowledge and skills in order to offer the highest possible standard of service by maintaining and updating my language/technical skills and subject knowledge.

By keeping in contact with the Chartered Institute of Linguists, the Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI), the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) etc., as well as various other translation and interpreting groups, I am always aware of upcoming training and development opportunities and I attend as many as I possibly can. Also as I am registered with various interpreting agencies they also provide development opportunities throughout the year.

Are you always prepared for your jobs or do you sometimes get surprised on the job? How do you prepare?  If you can give an example that would be super.

I am, more often than not, well prepared but it is not always possible. Before I accept a job I try and get as much information as possible as to the specific topic that I will be expected to interpret. I would then, for example if it is a medical appointment, carry out online research into the speciality or disease to gain an understanding of the specific technical terms and issues that I may come across. For short notice jobs this is not possible and I have to rely on the experience I have gained so far.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a public service interpreter? 

Do not stop with just a qualification in community interpreting offered by one of the organisations offering interpreting services in the local community, as this will only cover the really basic aspects of what you need.

Do continue to study, and I would highly recommend further studies such as a DPSI course or a Master’s in Interpreting, to improve your knowledge of proper interpreting techniques and allow you to gain practical experience in a controlled environment.

Do develop your knowledge of the cultural and religious background of the countries where the language is spoken.

Do always keep an eye open for courses, workshops and seminars for professional development.

Do not be afraid to turn down jobs for which you may not be suitable. You need to bear in mind that speaking fluently in at least one other language is not enough. Instances may arise where knowledge of special terminology may be required, or you may need to know informal speech, slang or regional dialects. You may be highly qualified and capable but unsuitable in a specific instance and accepting the job could do more harm than good for the client.

Do remember that you always need to interpret accurately as the client is relying on you completely.

Any other information you wish to share with us?

Interpreting usually involves a great deal of travelling, working without fixed hours and being ready to change plans at very short notice. After a few years working in this profession I have learnt to keep my badges, folder, timesheets and related information with me at all times.


Thank you, Marianela, for this in-depth insight into your journey and for sharing your passion for social justice with us. It is nice to be reminded of the crucial role that translators and interpreters perform in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them below. It would be great to hear from you!

Post 5: Life as a public service interpreter (1/2)

kasiaWelcome back! This week sees a different approach to the Bella Lingo blog posts. Instead of an article focussing on a translation topic, may I present to you a 2 part interview on life as a public service interpreter. The aim is to highlight the different facets of the job and give an insight into the profession.

This week we have the pleasure of welcoming a lady who I have the pleasure of calling not only a colleague, but also a good friend, Kasia Pranke, who will give us a sneak peek into her life as a public service interpreter in the health service here in Northern Ireland. Take it away, Kasia…

Name: Katarzyna (Kasia) Pranke DPSI DipTrans MCIL

Place of origin: Poland



Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Kasia Pranke and I am a Polish-English translator and interpreter originally from Wielkopolska, but currently living in Northern Ireland.

How did your journey as a public service interpreter start?

When I moved abroad, my primary aim was to work as a translator and gain qualifications in this field. It took two people (a friend, who is a pharmacist and a fellow translator) and about two years before I got my foot into interpreting. I started with getting qualifications (Level 3 in Community Interpreting, Level 6 Diploma in Public Service Interpreting). Around the time when I gained the DPSI I was informed that my application to become a health and social care interpreter was successful. I was thrilled!

What area do you mainly work in? 

I mainly interpret in the health and social care settings: hospitals, GP surgeries, health centres where I help health care professionals to communicate with their patients.

What attracted you to becoming a public service interpreter and how did you get in to working in the field?

First of all, I was not completely sure if interpreting would be my cup of tea, but I found the prospect of the DPSI course very attractive. At that point I thought it was a good idea to enrol for the course as it would help me to build on my knowledge of medical terminology. On the course there were interpreters with a few years of experience and me having barely any – it definitely motivated me to do my best and invest time in preparation for the exam. I spent long hours in the library reading, watching medical videos and preparing glossaries. Even in my free time, when I had to choose a TV series to watch, it would be something related to the medical setting like: Getting On or Frankie.

Did you find any element particular difficult at first? And anything particularly easy? If so, please elaborate.

Oh yes! As a translator at heart, initially I could not imagine myself not having a ‘safety net’ and not being able to refer to a dictionary or other resources. This initial fear gave me the extra push to research and prepare glossaries. What is more, I had very little experience as a driver and thanks to interpreting jobs, I learned to drive on the left side like a pro;)

What aspects do you enjoy most about the job?

It’s really great to meet a variety of people every day – it’s never boring. I enjoy constant learning and love working with professionals who have so much commitment to what they do. At some point I started to wonder why I would never thought of pursuing a medical career, but I guess I am still more of a linguist at heart. Being a health and social care interpreter also helps me a lot in my translation work. As I am in the medical environment every day, when I receive a translation project, I can easily understand the context and imagine who the sender/receiver of the message is.

Do you feel training is important? Why? How do you keep up with CPD?

I believe it is a profession in which you need to develop knowledge in a systematic way, for example, by creating glossaries. Moreover, I’m always keen to attend CPD for medical interpreters and look for some medical events in the area.

Are you always prepared for your jobs or do you sometimes get surprised on the job? How do you prepare? 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – this saying applies perfectly to our profession. I always make sure I research the subject before the session.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a public service interpreter?


-Contact public services to check if there is a need for your language pair.

-Take any opportunity to expand your knowledge in the chosen field. Try to make use of all resources around you. Evidently you should check the internet, but don’t forget about a local library.

-Try to contact a more experienced colleague or a specialist, such as a pharmacist or a medical doctor.

-Build up glossaries – it may be time-consuming at first, but will pay off after a while.

-Gather resources in both languages.

-Always follow the code of conduct and adhere to your role at all times.

-And how about volunteering for a local migrant organisation? They may take advantage of your language skills and you will have a chance to gain some real life experience.


Do not assume interpreting is only about knowing two languages; it is also about improving other skills, for example, time management, resilience, etc.


Thank you for your time and sharing your experience with us, Kasia! Are you a public service interpreter? How did you get started in this profession? As usual, I would love to hear your views, so please add a comment below.

Don’t forget to join us next week for the second part of the interview with Marianela Trigo, a Spanish<>English interpreter, who’ll give us a glimpse into her life working in community and public service interpreting.