A colourful year: Translating for ProNails

The holiday season is about to kick off tonight! Instead of making yet another black-and-white retrospective, I have decided that the last post of 2018 should be colourful and joyful.

I have had the great pleasure of translating ProNails contents since 2015. I particularly enjoy re-creating the introduction to their collections in French. This year’s holiday collection “Warm Wishes” was particularly interesting. Based on the Danish Hygge lifestyle, it brought together hues between two colours. These are more difficult to name… And to tanslate while being faithful both to the source text and the Christmassy theme!

I let you discover the result!

Read in English

Discover my translation in French

Wishing you a happy holiday season, see you in 2018!


The London Business Show: Expansion 101

The Olympia Business Show is a mine of information for any British SME looking to expand. While translators were absent from the presentations in the 2017 edition, the program provided a fantastic 360° view of international expansion, with a few tips on localisation. Here is what I learnt (it might come in handy)…

When in Rome

‘Localisation is the process of adapting a content to a target country or a regional variant.’

It will be news to nobody that digital marketing is one of the most effective ways of creating awareness – as long as it is done well. Managing director of WBS Agnieszka Szrubkowska started her talk with a reminder that languages play a key part in an international marketing strategy. Though it is easier for a British company to expand to the US, Canada or Australia than to non English-speaking markets,

  • 70% of global search queries are not made in English and
  • 90% of EU internet users visit websites in their own languages.

Localization is about building trust in your brand. Before you localise, you have to know who you are addressing. This is why market research is paramount to proper localisation. Ms. Szrubkowska listed a few questions worth asking in order to unfold an appropriate digital marketing strategy: is your target audience the same in the new country as in your home country? What are your target’s habits and behaviour? What is the online competition in the new country? What is their online strategy?

In keeping with the idea that companies should go global with a local approach, Ms. Szrubkowska generally emphasized that there are cultural differences in Internet usage, which have design implications. Localising a website involves rethinking URLs, images, meta elements, and more. Contact details and tariffs should be relevant to the local market. For example, when addressing a Canadian audience, your prices should be in Canadian dollars and you should show contact details in Canada.

Similarly, popular search engines or social media may differ from one country to another. That should be taken into account in the digital market strategy for the new market. Once you know what the dominant search engine(s) and social media are, research popular keywords for your industry. And while business expansion requires a very diverse skillset, it is paramount for the company to get help from a native speaker for its content strategy in order to create language-specific campaigns.

Finally, localisation does not stop offline. It is important to know the local laws for your industry, particularly advertising regulations, and to set up a good logistic chain by creating a dedicated customer service for the region and using time differences to your advantage.

The Hare and the Tortoise

Expanding into Europe in Uncertain Times

Ms. Szrubkowska gave a few timing tips, advising to set goals and plan over six months to one year only, monitoring results weekly, monthly, and adapting on the go. Time management was also central to the presentation by Gonçalo De Vasconcelos, the founder of investment platform SyndicateRoom. He asserted that timing is key and that many companies generally expand too soon. Challenging the idea that one should speed up their expansion process before Brexit kicks in, Mr. De Vasconcelos argued that by the time you have launched, Brexit has happened and you have to adapt anyway.

London used to be the landing point to set up headquarters when expanding to the EU. Post-Brexit, that may no longer be the case. For example, Goldman Sachs is already considering having two headquarters, one in the United Kingdom and one in mainland Europe. Some sectors, like financial services, are suffering huge uncertainties arising from Brexit.

His advice was to approach expansion step by step, starting with making sure that you have a strong position in your home market before expanding and then taking into account timing on the market where you are expanding. He recommends taking advantage of markets where your sector is taking off, having a close look at the economic context for your industry.

A flawless expansion strategy involves a careful process. Gonçalo De Vasconcelos took the example of Uber, whose rapid expansion followed a set pattern. Like Ms. Szrubkowska, he emphasised the need to be aware of local legislation and to surround oneself with people who know the local market and feel passionate about the company and the field.

Tackling the challenges of the French market

France was the focus of the talk given by Patrick Maupard, the CEO of accounting firm Maupard Fiduciaire. Before providing a few insights on how to successfully enter the French market, Mr. Maupard reminded his audience of what makes France an attractive market. France is the 6th largest economy in the world and that it has similar GDP as the United Kingdom and Germany, an indicator of similarities in these markets. The French are historic allies to Britain and, due to its geography, France could act as a hub to the EU for British companies after Brexit.

As Mr. De Vasconcelos advised on Brexit, Mr. Maupard’s #1 tip was to have a slow approach to do things right. The way to successfully expand to the French market is to understand a different way of doing things. For example, France has the highest corporate tax rate in the European Union. Comparatively, the UK’s corporate tax is historically stable around 20% and Great Britain attracts the most Foreign Direct Investment in the EU. However, Mr. Maupard added,  France has implemented tax credits and impatriate exemption – the only R&D tax credit higher than the French one (30%) in the world is Australia (40%). This shows the ambivalence of the French system, which is very bureaucratic.

The silver lining to all the presentations was that the only way to succeed expansion is by taking the time to adapt to a different culture. The Business Show offers tips on how to implement the appropriate strategy. In my case, it is an opportunity for me to stay current and reminding myself how my work fits in the bigger picture: expansion accounts for a great part of translated contents. If you are interested in localisation itself, you can always learn more about it on my dedicated page.


‘Translation is Linguistic Hospitality’ – International Translation Day 2017

This year’s International Translation Day was a bit special as the United Nations has added the celebration to their official calendar. It was also my second time celebrating the date at the British Library. Here is my summary of the event which will, I hope, shed a light on what our beautiful job is about.


Making voices heard

In this year’s edition, defining the translator’s role was a recurrent subject – what we do, and how to do it well. Translating was described as ‘the act of listening well’, ‘starting conversations’… While International Translation Day raises awareness of the challenges of the profession, many panellists agreed that translation itself is about making voices heard.

‘A translator is like a method actor’

This is one comparison that stuck with me during the masterclass led by literary translator Helen Stevenson, shortlisted in this year’s Man Booker Prize for Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses. A bit like an actor endorsing a role, the translator has to identify with the message and use their skill to reshape the voice of the author in the target language. It is worth mentioning that in doing so, they often have to carve their own voice in the target language. Another of H. Stevenson’s beautiful analogies compared translating with playing an instrument: once you play, the result does not show the technicalities of your work, but all your technical efforts are focused on making the voice of the author heard in the target language.

Adrian Blackledge’s account of interpreting for migrants shed a very different light on the role of the linguist. In this practice, A. Blackledge reported, the primary concern is to defend the client’s interest, sometimes at the expense of fidelity to the source text. The overall objective of getting the right help superseded what the speaker actually said – mostly because in this instance, the interpreter had a better understanding of context (that is, the welfare system) than the speaker. While that is unthinkable in translation as the source is written, the informative role of the translator was still also very present in this field, as the translator had the responsibility of finding equivalents to entire social systems. 

Human Rights translation requires a diametrically opposed approach: specialized translator Amanda Hopkinson started her intervention by stressing the necessity to be factual and stay out of any interpretation when translating stories of people who experienced human rights abuse. The reason is that in this field, you should not add any interpretation to the horror of the facts.

As these examples show, it is not easy defining what translation is about, let alone how to translate. While the rules of the game differ drastically from one field and one text to another,  those rules were dictated by the function of the message. In a sense, one could say that the translator accommodates the author’s message in the target language. This brings me to another important subject discussed at the British Library on that day: the notions of native speaker and mother tongue.


To be or not to be native?

‘Translation is linguistic hospitality’

Should we translate in a language in which we were not raised? The opening session raised the question of the pertinence of mother tongue in a multicultural society, and I particularly identified with panellist Vanni Bianconi’s take on the topic:

‘No tongue is the mother tongue’, he commented, hinting at the fact that we do not exactly know to which extent our thoughts are shaped by the language(s) we speak fluently. Though it is possible to write in another language for literary purposes, using the beauty of an out-of-tune style, translation is ‘linguistic hospitality’, borrowing the concept from Paul Ricœur. And in order to welcome somebody, in our case a message, you need a home, he concluded – in what I consider quite a home run! 

As one of the attendants pointed out, the debate over the native speaker in the target language often eludes that knowing your source language well is just as important in order to understand its subtleties. The general idea is that a good translator should be fluent both in their source and target languages. I agree that emotional detachment with the target is of importance in order to be loyal to the source message. However, I believe that it is better to translate into a language which you have spoken from day one, that is a language in which you are native, may it be your mother tongue or not.


A final word

For a lot of people nowadays, multilingualism is ‘the nightmare scenario’, as it was said at the British Library, in reference to Brexit. As a result, translation is becoming a bolder choice. This adverse context may explain why this year’s International Translation Day gave me more a feeling of belonging to professional community than the previous years. It seems that the debates were more than ever focused on the specificities of the profession and why it matters. I am looking forward to next year’s event. In the meantime, to learn more about translation, you can always have a look at my dedicated page on the subject.

My Experience in Ellis Island: Nation-Building in Translation

With Independence Day and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the US entry in WW1 on Bastille Day (even though it really happened in April), it seems that July 2017 was an important month for American national sentiment. Having recently paid my second visit to Ellis Island, I was particularly struck by the role translation and interpretation played in literally building the nation.

Click on the first circle on the left of this album to discover how.


All the photos and facts displayed in this gallery come from the excellent exhibition of Ellis Island. More info on their official page.

Translating for MOO: Pantone’s colour of the year 2017

Before you take off for greener pastures tomorrow, take the time to read this colourful memory. What you will find in this post: a bit of recent history, a short analysis, some marketing tips and a glimpse at my work, all on green screen of course!

At the turn of the 21st century, colour specialist Pantone launched an initiative that was soon to become an authority in design and marketing: the announcement of their colour of the year. Every year since then, this American company has called in experts from all around the world to determine the most representative hue for the year to come.

Go green in 2017

The choice of 2017 caused much (green?) ink to flow. Greenery (see above) is a bold green. It is a positive and refreshing color, which echoes the need for a more durable lifestyle, free from short term imperatives. It combines a reference to the ecological challenge of the century and one to nature as an escape from an overly connected lifestyle. Pantone Color Institute vice-president Laurie Pressman told Forbes:

« There’s a growing desire to reconnect with Nature and what is real and find ways to disconnect from technology. We need a break. We need to stop and breathe. [Greenery] is about unity and community—connecting to oneself and others and a higher purpose, Nature. »

2017 is clearly meant to be zen and organic: matcha tea, avocado, Granny Smith… Though Pantone insisted on the positive connotation of Greenery, it is also the green of the Mask, the Grinch or radioactive substances as we imagine them. Laurie Pressman also commented on this sour side:

« This [colour] wasn’t meant to be soothing. This was meant to be bold. We’re living in a time where your voice needs to be heard. »

Because it has a lot of yellow in it, Greenery tends to be an assertive colour. There is a reason why civil rights and environmental movements adopted Greenery in the sixties and seventies. And the multiple messages this colour has conveyed may come in handy in your marketing.

MOO’s tips, translated by myself

Shortly before 2017, the MOO team had analysed the various possibilities and limitations offered by Greenery. The resulting post contains precious tips which I enjoyed translating and that I happily share with you today, for the second half of the year…

If you were planning on rebranding during the summer or simply if you wanted to catch up on your marketing culture, have a look at the article in French or in English. Beyond the Greenery fad, MOO’s tips are applicable in the long term!

Discover MOO’s colourful tips in English…

…or read my translation in French!

A little something to share…

The latest version of my portfolio is now online. Check it out and don’t forget to share! Feedback always welcome.

New office setup!

office space, translator at work, life of a freelancer

New year, new challenges: this is my new office space! I opted for a sea green desk – I like a bit of colour.

My resolutions included posting a bit more here, so stay tuned!

A Day at GBBS: Brexit or Not, Going Global

localisation, expansion to the French market

Every year Kensington Olympia hosts The Great British Business Show, a huge meeting point for Britain-based companies of all sizes and industries. This year was no exception with the major truck show taking place on November 17th and 18th. All aspects of business were represented and of course, as a language service provider, I was particularly interested in the ‘Going Global’-themed sessions.

Going Global offered several interventions from professionals of the international business development industry, including localization services. For businesses looking to expand, this was a valuable opportunity to learn about the dos and don’ts of localization. Here is a little digest of the subjects discussed by the panellists.

Why localizing

Why having it done by professionals? This question was omnipresent in interventions from language service providers, which is a giveaway of how language professions are still perceived. Comparatively, no carpenter would make a case of why you should use their services to repair your roof instead of doing so yourself…

In this recurring argument, one figure stood out: 72% of people surfing the internet do so exclusively in their own language. If your contents are not localized, let alone translated, they will probably never know who you are. More languages equal more content for your company, therefore more traffic and better SEO. And if your contents are localized, there will be more engagement from people (less bounce rate) and even better SEO.

Evaluate your needs

The speakers gave their audiences a series of valuable tips to run a localization project as smoothly as possible. As repeated throughout the event, translation, and particularly good translation, comes at a cost. Before rushing into the process, it is therefore important to evaluate your needs, keeping the end user in mind. For a sound localisation project management, determine the following parameters from step 1, with the help of your service provider:

  • What documents should be translated?
  • In what language? Choose your languages carefully: 90% of online traffic is done in 13 languages only. Amongst the most significant are: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Chinese and Japanese.
  • What technology should be used?

In order to answer these questions as accurately as possible, market research and the study of search engine bids are essential. Once all these elements are determined, it is crucial to set a clear brief, that the translator or copywriter will be able to follow.

Looking into the future

I lost count of the episodes in the big Machine Translation debate. But at GBBS, I was horrified to hear one of my fellow translators state that, thanks to MT, translators’ fees were getting cheaper and that, eventually, MT would replace human translators. Not only do these assertions hurt our credibility as a profession, they also hide two realities that have placed, and will place, the translator at the centre of the technological evolution:

  • First, MTs will always need linguists to maintain and update them. IT specialists alone will not be able to develop satisfactory MT, because language is not their expertise. They need to work with linguists.
  • The speakers also spoke about how a lot of the marketing contents that need to be quickly published (tweets, for instance) are no longer translated. Instead, it is drafted directly in French by copywriters, who share their writing skills with translators. This is how a translator like myself also provides top quality transcreation and copywriting services.

In a globalized world, localization is the opportunity to adapt the company’s voice to a new market, creating a more competitive offer. Better preparation of the project can make a real difference in the efficiency of the localized contents. The panels at Going Global were the opportunity for the clients to collect tips and for Language Service Providers to keep up with the evolution of their professions. Far from disappearing, language services are bound to evolve with their clients’ needs. As of now, this means combining specialized translation services with copywriting and transcreation abilities. As far as I am concerned, I am looking forward to the next innovations in my field!

International Translation Day 2016 in London: a few highlights

British Library, ITD 2016

Though not a holiday, September 30th marks an important milestone in a translator’s year. It is International Translation Day (ITD, for insiders).  For the first time, I was able to celebrate in London and I am delighted to share my experience with you!

To begin with, why International Translation Day? Coincidentally, September 30th is also the day that celebrates St Jerome, famous for translating the Bible into Latin. Started in 1953, International Translation Day is an opportunity for all language professionals to gather and focus on one translation-related theme. This year, the theme was ‘Connecting Worlds‘.

For my first ITD in London, I attended the British Library’s ITD 2016 conference series.   At the British Library, the focus was on how translating literature promotes intercultural dialogue. Thanks to a well-designed format, the agenda was a fantastic occasion to discover the ins and outs of literary translation and its inherent challenges.

From Author to Reader

The opening session of the day aimed at introducing all aspects of translating a book for a new market. This exciting journey in the generation of a translated book allowed the speakers to discuss the challenges in today’s translated literature.

Several subjects were raised during the debate; the most striking topic was probably assessing the status of translated literature in publishing. The panellists agreed that despite the galaxy of literary festivals present throughout the UK, little emphasis was placed on translated literature. Sarah Braybrooke, publicist at Scribe UK, pointed out that translation is a sign of publishing success in the country of origin of the book. While that in itself should be a selling point for the translated version, she continued, translated books in the United Kingdom prove harder to sell. To further illustrate this paradox, Sarah Braybrooke eloquently asked: would you imagine a “local book for local people?”

Thankfully, initiatives to promote translated literature are flourishing. Fiammetta Rocco, books and arts editor at The Economist reminded the audience that The Economist now has a regular slot for books in translation and that the Man Booker Prize has become the first of its size to divide the prize equally between the author and the translator. As for publishers, many make the choice of specializing in one country’s literature. Among the speakers present at the British Library alone, there were publishers specialized in Spanish, Ukrainian, Italian and French translated fiction. Additionally, the numerous associations supporting literary translators also presented. Brighter times are coming?

Midsummer Night's Dream, literary translation, ITD 2016
Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare on ITD

Multilingual creativity

The themes of the afternoon sessions focused more on the translation process itself. In literature as well as in sign language, speakers showed how translation can be a vehicle for creativity and a source of inspiration.

A majority of people in the world are at least bilingual and, to add variety, there are a lot more than one regional variations of the same language. That means that the traditional opposition between the monolingual norm and the ideal figure of the native speaker are not realistic conceptions.

This raises a fascinating challenge for the translator: how to translate multilingual and multicultural influences. Ellen Jones, who does research in the subject, introduced authors who deliberately chose to write multilingual texts, taking the multilingual experience even further – that is, texts in Frenglish or Portuñol, for instance. Participants agreed that multilingual texts benefit from collaborative translation, which may be more truthful to the versatile nature of the source text.

The closing session took the relationship between creativity and multilingualism one step further through a presentation of sign art. While the creative use of signage goes back a very long time, Youtube and a better access to video-editing allowed sign artists to acquire a broader audience and to combine written words and signage. This was a complete discovery for me and I was impressed with how language and translation, in these videos, became a source of inspiration, a vehicle for expression and art.

A Final Word

The British Library’s series of events was a 360° view of literary translation and a fabulous opportunity for translators to discuss all aspects of their profession. Because this is the main event taking place in London, I believe a cross-disciplinary approach would be interesting, gathering various areas of translation practice (business, institutional, technical…). Next year, perhaps?

About Pricing: Translation

When it comes to pricing, do you feel lost in translation? Take the time to read this short memo, which lists the various parameters of translation pricing – and provides a clear breakdown of my prices.

The Market

The standard price unit in translation is the word. Translators can adjust their price per word according to the language combination, the level of expertise of the document or the number of repetitions.

  • Most common pricing unit: per word
  • Prices generally vary from one language combination to the other.
  • Technical documents are sometimes subject to a higher price per word.
  • Tight deadlines generally drive the prices up.
  • Repetitions can be subject to a reduced price per word.

My Pricing Policy

Language Combination

It is easy to understand that varying prices from one language to the other are based on offer and demand.

Where I stand: Whatever language combination you are seeking, you are expecting the same service and the same quality. This is why my price per word is always the same for all language combination.


Why single out technical terminology? A text branded simple because it contains everyday language can prove very hard to translate. Yet for these grammatical or idiomatic difficulties, the prices are not driven up.

Furthermore, it is not easy to quantify the technicality of a text. Without a standard scale to determine the technical nature of a text, it is possible that the customer (you) disagrees with the translator.

Where I stand: I believe all texts are equal. Terminology research is only invoiced where you explicitly asked to receive a glossary with the translation.

About Repetitions

Discounts on repetitions help reduce the final price. Yet while repetitions are now a mainstream factor for discount in pricing, it should be important to know what is considered a repetition. The recurrence of prepositions in a text cannot reasonably be considered a factor for repetition. The fact is that repetitions are determined by a word count software or a CAT tool. Within the tool, the result varies according to the selected settings. As a matter of fact, it is unlikely that the final client has any control over this calculation.

Where I stand: I believe in trust and transparency. Rather than chopping texts and selling parts at a discount, with little accountability on the pricing method, I consider that a commercial gesture is more pleasant and transparent than a confusing, systematic discount. As a result, I do not offer reduced prices on repetitions, but I do offer general promotions on a regular basis! Should you want to learn more about my work or my prices, you can contact me via the form available on this website.