Archivi categoria: Know Your Customer

Translator in Wonderland


Guest post by Teresa Cavalla***

When I first started moving into freelancing, I attended thousands of courses on how to stand out in the profession.

So I started to realize that I was facing an amazing world in which I could choose when, where, and who to work with. I had to find my niche, to market my brand, to apply to translation agencies (a lot of agencies on the market!) or to contact private clients and… everything seemed so easy!


But when I started facing reality, things turned out to be a little more complicated. So, as many other newbies, I sent many curriculum vitae without having a strategy. My core thought was that I had to accept everything in order to make my new profession start. So every time I could get in touch with a translation agency I felt like a 6 years old child waiting for the mark from her teacher. Continua la lettura di Translator in Wonderland

The Whys and Hows of Translation Style Guides. A Case Study.

Last week, a marketing manager of a global investment company called me. He was referred to me by a colleague. They are launching the company’s website in Italy and had it translated into Italian by a global translation company. However, they were not convinced of the Italian translation and asked me for an opinion and for a review.

I started reading the translations. I could not find big mistakes, such as grammar or spelling. The main issue was that the text sounded too much like a translation. Sometimes I could not even understand the Italian without reading the English source. This lead to various misinterpretations. Moreover, it was translated literally, and Website menus and buttons were too long for the Internet layout.

It was evident that nobody visited the English website before or during the translation process. You could understand it from naïve mistakes, where charts were confused with tables, buttons mistaken for menus, and the translated metaphors had nothing to do with the image shown online.

Translators were not informed (and probably did not ask) about the intended destination, the target reader, the “ideal” client of the website. Who was going to read and visit it? Institutional or retail investors? Should the language be easy to understand for everybody, or specifically directed to investment professionals. What is the brand “tone”, formal or informal?

A 20 minute call with the client’s local team was enough to understand their expectations and draft a very short “style guide” for an effective translation into Italian: words not to be translated, reference materials, a description of the market they wanted to reach in order to launch their products in Italy. A professional translator can start from such information to hone the language for the purpose.

When talking about style guides or manuals of style, you may think they are too academic, while a simple short guide for effective writing is a valuable reference for translators and does not need to be too complicated. You can combine this guide with glossaries and reference material to do a better job, a translation that does not sound like a translated text, but as an original document improving the quality of the message, increasing the audience engagement, and even cutting costs.

WHY… a style guide?

Continua la lettura di The Whys and Hows of Translation Style Guides. A Case Study.

Long Live the Press Release

Financial communication: how clients can help translators convey the right message

Most people think that financial translation mainly regards annual reports and financial statements. As a financial translator specialising in investments and asset management, accounting is a marginal part of my translation business. More often, I translate market commentaries and press releases communicating financial data and company’s results.

A press release – or media release, or video release – is a written or recorded communication directed at the news media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy. It is an important tool of corporate communication. Continua la lettura di Long Live the Press Release

I Want It All, I Want It Now!

Real-Time Translations

Have you ever received a translation request on Friday evening due on Monday 9 a.m., or on Christmas Eve for Boxing day? If you are a translator, your answer is probably a big yes.

Why are translations increasingly urgent? This is especially true for my specialisation – economics and finance – but also in other industries, legal, technical, marketing, etc., from what I read in the forums and translators’ groups.


Although I strongly believe that MT, “Gurgle” translate and PEMT are not a threat to professional specialised translators, machine translation and other automation systems have increased the perception that translation is real time, that you can translate a sentence into another language in a blink.

Even our relatives, friends and families have no idea of what we do as translators. We know foreign languages, all the languages of the world, and all the words in any language of the world…“How do you say pomegranate in German?” Personally, I have no idea, I have to look it up in the dictionary!

I have been an English>Italian financial translator for 23 years now, and financial translations have always been urgent, it is their intrinsic nature since financial markets evolve very rapidly. However, new translation needs emerged with social media, blogs, Facebook corporate pages and websites, as well as new regulations and reporting requirements. More than a need, it is often the perception of a need. You must publish your product, your news, your article before competitors, in real time and in many different languages. That is also the case for EU documents, just to make an example. Continua la lettura di I Want It All, I Want It Now!

You Can’t Make an Omelette Without Breaking Eggs

I really like that restaurant round the corner. They are always friendly, even if I arrive late. Once, my soup was tasteless. I complained with the waiter. He was sorry and promised to report immediately to the chef to find what went wrong, and brought me a free dessert. If he had acted defensively, probably I would not have come back. On the contrary, I will give them a second chance. If the waiter knows his job, next time he will recommend me the day’s specials.

frittataHave you ever received a complaint from a client who was not happy with your translation?

If you are a freelancer, you probably had to deal with somebody criticising what you have done. In Italy, we say that “only those who do not work, do not get it wrong”.

However, is the client always right? Continua la lettura di You Can’t Make an Omelette Without Breaking Eggs

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Who is my Ideal Client?



When I am on vacation, I like to travel. I do not like to stand still in one place for long. Ok, sometimes it is nice and cosy to lie in the sun, walk along the beach, or eat an ice cream, though this is not my ideal vacation. On those rare occasions in my life when I have plenty of idle time, I cannot do without thinking about where I stand now in my profession, what I would like to do next, which situations I do not like, and what I want to change in my working life.

These days I was thinking about problem clients and asked myself: who is my ideal client, the client I want to work with?

My ideal client replies to messages and sends useful information. I perfectly understand that I am the problem-solver for my clients. They do not want to solve problems themselves; otherwise, they would have not called a translator to find translation solutions. However, great results arise from cooperation. If I do not understand the source text I am translating or have doubts on the best way to translate an investment fund factsheet for a retail or institutional investor, I expect my ideal client replies to my questions. Because it is in the interest of both to do a great translation job (and sell that investment fund).

My ideal client says thank you. When a plumber fixes my tap, I thank him. When I buy a coffee machine at the store, I thank the clerk giving advice on what is the best coffee machine for me. When somebody opens the door for me, I say thank you. You help me, I thank you. You send me work, I thank you. You work for me, I thank you. It is a sign of appreciation and mutual respect. Continua la lettura di The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Who is my Ideal Client?

Price is What You Pay. Value is What You Get. (Part I)

Imagine you won an amazing last-minute vacation on an exotic island. Maybe a Caribbean wildly beautiful island in January, where the sun is shining on stunning white beaches. Your skin needs sunscreen, and you rush to the supermarket to buy your favourite suntan lotion for 30 dollars. When your flight finally lands, your luggage is lost. No way. You cannot lose one single day at the hotel and decide to buy another sunscreen tube to enjoy your vacation. You go to the hotel shop. There, you may choose a cheap “second choice” lotion at 15 dollars, or you may buy the same high-SPF suntan lotion you like for 50 dollars. What? Yes, you buy it, even if you know it is almost double the price.caraibi (2)

What I want to point out is that value is something different from cost, and perceived value in case of emergency is higher than normal perceived value. Continua la lettura di Price is What You Pay. Value is What You Get. (Part I)

How to Differentiate Yourself as a Professional… and Love your Job

I love my job

As a language enthusiast and word-fanatic, I looked it up in two dictionaries: “professional” is (1) a person following a profession, especially a learned profession; (2) one who earns a living in a given or implied occupation; and (3) a skilled practitioner, an expert.

However, that’s only part of the story if a professional wants to differentiate himself or herself. Dictionaries are right: professional translators studied one or more foreign languages, learnt translation techniques, and are paid for their work.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that a professional (translator) should keep in mind: Continua la lettura di How to Differentiate Yourself as a Professional… and Love your Job

Don’t speak my language? I won’t buy your financial services


Financial services are the products that consumers are least likely to buy if the website is not in their native language

Travelling is one of my passions. I have travelled extensively, alone, with friends, with groups of people. I have visited many places in Italy, in Europe, and “exotic” countries, from India to Vietnam, from Syria to South Africa. I like to meet people with different cultures and try to understand their language.

Anyway, from my own experience, when people – like my travel companions – have to buy something or choose what they are going to eat at the restaurant, they would rather read the product labels or the menu in their own language (and possibly see a picture!). The same goes when you buy a travel package on the web. It is a matter of trust.


A recent report “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: 2014” by the independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory (with more than 3,000 global consumers in 10 non-English speaking countries) confirmed my perception. Continua la lettura di Don’t speak my language? I won’t buy your financial services

Content Marketing? Just Help People!


20140203_153905Rome is always worth a visit. The weather should be nicer. That’s what I thought a month ago when a friend of mine – who knows my interest in content marketing, content curation and blogging – invited me to participate in C-Come (national congress of content marketing, copywriting and creativity organised by Pennamontata).

Actually, it rained cats and dogs in Rome. However, the meeting was lively, instructive, and a source of inspiration. As an entrepreneurial linguist, translator and blogging enthusiast, that’s what I learned and brought back to Milan.

Content should be useful for readers (and clients). Continua la lettura di Content Marketing? Just Help People!