The Linguist

The Linguist 59,4 - Aug/Sept 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 21 FEATURES Hannah Embleton-Smith considers how a professional skills swap can benefit your translation business "I really need to make a French version of my website." It was one of those thoughts that crops up before getting immediately side- lined in the rush to meet that deadline or chase that late invoice – the classic tale of a freelancer's own marketing needs constantly dropping to the bottom of the to-do list. But as the thought persisted, it grew into something that looked less like a task and more like an opportunity. I had been interested in skills exchanges since coming across a bright building in Athens many years ago. Its colourful entrance displayed requests for English lessons in exchange for guitar solos; beautifully designed logos for the gift of song. I was enchanted by the idea that both parties could bring their gifts to the table and leave with something unique; something that bore the imprint of connection and collaboration. As a translator specialising in marketing and communications, and working in the opposite language direction I needed, a like-for-like exchange seemed like just the solution. One hopeful Facebook post later and I found myself talking website needs and norms with a translator at a similar stage in her career. Adeline Bertin Denys is an English/Italian to French translator specialising in social sciences and the environment ( We sensed that working together would be a good fit and within a week our skills swap was taking shape. We knew that we needed some ground rules. It was important to us that the workload should be fairly even and the deadlines flexible. The last thing we wanted was for one translator to take on too much and feel that things were off balance – one of the perils of a poorly planned exchange. With such considerations in mind, Adeline and I shared our materials to be translated and discussed our workloads. Two months later, we were swapping translations that we had fitted in on quieter days, and fine-tuning them together. One of the advantages of swapping skills, rather than cash, is that it makes it easier to discuss each other's copy openly, mulling over turns of phrase without feeling the time pressure that comes with a price tag. While working on each other's materials, we reflected on our own. With no need to worry about mounting costs, we could improve on our original copy and support each other to integrate those changes into the translations. This open dialogue not only led to thoughtful translations, but evolved into us reaching out for advice on other projects. Beyond the skills exchange, we found that we had become supportive colleagues. As translators working in opposite directions, we could share agency recommendations with little risk of competing for work. And we found that direct paid projects could be part of our exchange after all. I expect most of us in the translation industry have explained the 'only into my mother tongue' concept more times than we can count. Now that Adeline and I had seen each other's work and knew the quality first- hand, we could confidently add 'but I know just the person'. It felt great to be able to pass on paid work – a way of saying thanks for the effort we had put into the exchange. Provided that communication is clear and there is an understanding of the needs and expectations of both participants from the outset, a skills exchange is something I would recommend to all translators who want to enhance their marketing – especially as things are a little quieter on the work front for some of us at the moment. For me, it was the perfect chance to share, and to grow my network in the process. A fair exchange Hannah Embleton-Smith is a French to English translator specialising in marketing and literary translation; TL © SHUTTERSTOCK

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