Bye bye AJT: My translation internship in Cornwall

As I’m embarking on my last day of work at Anja Jones Translation, I hesitate to bestow on the time I’ve spent here the rather generic label of “internship”. This word – generally speaking – cannot ever give an accurate idea of the actual experience an intern has, as internships differ so vastly from one another. And it would be too lacklustre a term to represent the fantastic training I was so fortunate to receive here. But for the sake of this last blog post of mine, I would like to encourage all young language talents out there to apply for an internship at AJT. I will do that by sharing with you my personal account of the AJT experience.

My work at AJT included a variety of tasks. There was of course translation and editing: I had the opportunity to work with lots of different texts, translating in Smartling, MemSource, SDL WorldServer, Excel and Word. Each translation job was quite different from the other and this allowed me to identify some of the pros and cons of each translation platform.

The work I enjoyed the most was the translation of games. It’s a bit like literary translation – only you get to see the context you are translating for (and occasionally you actually get to play your way through the context). Other work assignments spanned the whole gamut from website and app translation to marketing texts and travel information. Of course, most of our translation work is strictly confidential, but I was assigned a couple of projects the results of which I will be able to showcase in the future.

Friday afternoons here at AJT is creativity time! We would usually set aside an hour or so to work on something other than translation. Anja came up with the idea to consult the random line generator and have him generate us some random lines around which we would then spin our creative yarns. If you’re interested in the results, check out my Jasper Fforde inspired dodo story. Not being an avid hobby writer myself, I’m nonetheless absolutely convinced that this exercise helps the translator get into the right frame of mind for some transcreation.

I would also like to share a few words about the office life here at AJT. The atmosphere is rather informal. Whenever I needed help with the work I was doing, there was someone at hand to help. As I was mostly doing English to German translations, I was lucky enough to have the support of a fabulously talented German team. So whenever there were grammar issues, or if I was in need of creative input, the German team was my first port of call. All questions were welcome and were always treated with due consideration.

Even outside of office hours, the AJT experience continues. Anja regularly invited the whole team for a day or evening out, for drinks, meals, a walk on the beach, a pub quiz (no we didn’t win, but it’s all about the taking part, isn’t it? … Isn’t it?), and for my penultimate day we made a trip to the Eden Project.

And so, three months’ worth of extremely enriching work experience come to a close. My time here at AJT has provided me with a wonderfully diversified insight into the work of an in-house translator and the workings of a translation agency – an experience I would not like to miss. I strongly recommend to any aspiring translators out there that they apply for an internship here at AJT. You will be sure to receive a warm welcome and the necessary support all throughout your work experience. If you feel that your talents are lacking in certain areas of translation, you will either receive the necessary help to improve your skills or alternatively be given the work assignments that will best suit your talents.

AJT is the perfect environment for any young language talent eager to learn the ropes of the profession. So hurry up and secure yourself one of the golden internship tickets for Anja’s translation factory 🙂


Introducing our new German translator

We’re so pleased to introduce you to our new German translator, Daniel Wagener. Originally from multilingual Luxembourg, Daniel developed a natural interest for all things language from a young age. With his first class BA in German Studies from the University of Luxembourg and subsequent MA in Professional Translation from Swansea University, he is well equipped for the task of German in-house translator here at AJT.

Before joining our team, Daniel had been working as a freelance translator, which allowed him to acquire experience in the translation of a variety of texts including marketing, business and law.

Daniel has a passion for reading and writing German and English fiction and non-fiction. Combined with his keen interest in literary translation, he is ideally suited for the task of transcreation.

In his spare time, Daniel plays the guitar and enjoys bouldering (a form of low-level rock climbing). And who knows, maybe we’ll see him practicing his rock-climbing skills on one of the coasteering adventures on the shores of Newquay.

Wëllkomm, bienvenue, willkommen and welcome Daniel!

Cardinal sins for translator CVs

5 cardinal sins that will land your translator CV in the bin

Finding work as a freelance translator can be tough, especially when you are just getting started with your translation career. There are plenty of online resources to help you create a great translator CV (for example My Perfect CV Builder and Monster Career Advice), but a CV on its own won’t secure you any jobs – it’s what you do with it that counts. In this article, I want to share with you some of the ‘cardinal sins’ when it comes to applying for translation projects, particularly with translation agencies.

1) If the shoe fits… Applying for jobs you are not suitable for

As obvious as it sounds, it’s the number one rule: you should only ever apply for projects that match your language combination and your specialism. For example, if you are a Canadian French translator and see a job ad specifically asking for a French native speaker from France, then chances are you won’t be considered for the project, even though you may think you could handle the task. When we post job ads, we always specify the language variant needed for a project, as specified by our customers, and disregard any CVs that don’t match these requirements. The same goes for your area of specialism. If your online profile or CV doesn’t specifically mention any experience in the industry sector we are recruiting for, then your CV won’t make it to the next round. After all, we need to deliver on our own promise to the client to find the very best, most suitable candidates for their projects.

You’re much better off applying for fewer projects that match your expertise exactly and spending that extra time refining your CV and cover letter.

2) Because we’re worth it… Sending out blind copy emails

We receive around 20 to 30 CVs every day that all have three things in common:

  1. They are blind copy emails (BCC)
  2. They don’t relate to a project or job we have advertised
  3. They don’t start with a personal greeting

Whenever these types of CVs land in our inbox, we delete them straight away. Why? Firstly, receiving an impersonal email CV that’s been simultaneously sent to a hundred other agencies is about as exciting as being offered a second-hand chewing gum: it shows a lack of interest in our company.

The old sales adage “If you throw enough sh*t at the wall, some of it will stick” is not a motto you should aspire to. Focus on quality rather than quantity. (Tweet this quote)

Secondly, the email could be spam. Translator identity theft is a thing that we should all be aware and wary of. Here is a quick example: About a year ago we received a generic CV from one of our trusted freelance translators. This made me immediately suspicious: why would he send us a generic email with his CV when we are already working together? When I contacted him he told me he knew nothing about it; apparently someone had set up a very similar email address to his own and sent out his actual CV without his knowledge. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened to him.

To avoid having your CV deleted as soon as it is received, make sure that you send a direct email with a personal greeting and a non-generic introductory paragraph. Do your research beforehand and find out on the translation agency’s website how they go about recruiting translators and their preferred method of receiving CVs. If you can find out the name of a project manager, even better – anything that will give the agency a hint that your email is genuine.

3) What’s the point… Not referencing the project you applied for

We recently introduced unique project numbers for job ads in our company to make it easier for our project managers to sort the applications we receive. If the project you apply for has a job number, make sure to quote it not just in the email itself but right in the subject line. If there is no job number, then try to reference the project name or the portal where you saw the job advertised. This will make it easier for the translation company to filter out your application – and distinguish it from all the generic CVs they receive that day.

As for the email body, it’s ideal to reference the project name or job number and your particular experience in the first sentence of your email. Put yourself in the shoes of a project manager for a moment who has received a hundred odd applications for one single project: it’s quite a big task to go through them all to find just the right candidate. A short email (at most 2 to 3 sentences) which serves as cover letter and states the project name/number as well as your relevant experience shows the project manager a) that you are a relevant candidate, b) that you communicate clearly and c) that you really want the job.

4) Amend before you send… Not proofreading your own CV

CVs and cover letters containing spelling or grammar errors are a big no no. First impressions definitely count and when we spot grammar and spelling errors in CVs, it immediately puts a seed of doubt in our head. The effort you put in your CV is representative of your work as a translator, it reflects on your communication skills, your attention to detail and your passion for the project. After all, you are supposed to be the master of the written word, so if you can’t get it right on your CV that you’ve had plenty of time to prepare, how will you fare on a real project with a tight deadline?

Take the extra time and ask someone in your family or a peer translator to proofread your CV – better be safe than sorry.

5) Don’t put your foot in it… Using overused or inappropriate quotes

As a freelancer, your CV and cover letter are your primary sales tools when applying for projects. As such it’s a good idea to add a personal touch such as a catchy heading or a quote to make your CV stand out from the crowd. But you should think carefully about what kind of quotes you use to avoid sounding silly or causing offense. Take this quote (from famous Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko) for example which we saw on a CV we recently received:

“Translation is like a women: if she is beautiful, she isn’t faithful, if she’s faithful she isn’t beautiful.”

While it might sound poetic and alludes to a common paradigm in translation (if you translate literally, it won’t necessarily sound beautiful; if you translate beautifully, the translation may not accurately reflect the source text), it’s quite inappropriate for a CV. Think about it: it’s basically insinuating that beautiful women aren’t faithful, while faithful women are presumably ugly. I am sure the translator meant no harm – it’s a well-known quote by a famous poet after all – but to me this quote demonstrated a lack of awareness.

Not sure if a particular quote might have already been used in a thousand other CVs, or whether it might come across inappropriately? If in doubt, just leave it out.

To be continued … creative writing exercises to nurture translation talent

Inspired by the concept of Feeding – a brilliant idea from the copywriting power house that is Stranger Collective – we recently introduced a ‘creative final hour’ in our office. Every Friday, we like to use the last hour in the office (or out of the office!) to actively broaden our horizons, research language-related topics, share our linguistic knowledge and get involved in some creative writing exercises … a fun way to further improve our writing styles, explore new vocabulary and generally get the creative juices flowing.

I am always impressed by the excellent level of English that our non-native translators produce, and by their sheer creativity, so I thought I’d share some of our musings. This first story is written by Caro, our current translation intern from Luxembourg. She used a ‘random first line’ generator on to give her the beginnings of a sentence and then she had 30 minutes to write a short story. Her story is a nod to one of her favourite authors, Jasper Fforde.

Here we go:

He didn’t want to go out on such a night but then they were only in town for one day. Who’d have thought that the dodos would be coming to this tiny hamlet – of all places. But the posters on the wooden lampposts confirmed it: “Dodo Day in Donkington-on-Dobbles”.

He looked around his place; was there anything that he could take for the dodos? He knew they liked fudge. But you weren’t allowed to give them any of that, as it would make their beaks all sticky. And dodos are of course notorious for their aversion to bath time. There were some nurdles that he’d collected at the beach the other day. He’d take those. Maybe the dodos liked all the different colours. They could even use them in their nest-making. So that was settled then.

Off he went to the marketplace, where the big tent had been set up. The entrance was right next to the central fountain, the one with all the koi in it. A woman with white hair was sitting on a small plastic chair at a small plastic table in front of the big red tent. Apparently she was the designated doorkeeper for the night. A roll of faded pink tickets and a cigar box were placed on the table in front of her. He held out a handful of coins and she picked out a few ducats. Then she tore off a ticket and handed it over to him. He took a look at it. It said: “MINI GOLF – One Person – Not transferable”. He looked at the white haired lady: “Erm … ‘xuse us – why does it say ‘Mini golf’ on this ticket. I was under the impression that this was the dodo tent.” “’Tis” was all she said. As he continued staring at her, she expanded her answer: “It’s an interactive show.” He decided that continuing to stare at her was not a good idea anymore now. He blinked a couple of times instead. The white haired lady seemed to catch on to the fact that he was a bit hard of understanding, so she went on: “You get to see the dodos, the dodos get to watch you play mini golf. It’s a win-win situation.” He thought that at that point their conversation had found its natural end, so he thanked her for the ticket and turned towards the tent. At least her explanations gave him some food for thought while he was waiting for the tent to be opened up. TO BE CONTINUED …

The idea is to continue with the story every week … let’s see where it takes us 🙂

Another Friday, another instalment of Caro’s story:

Outside the cabin, the wind howled through the trees, while inside, the old woman’s fire was nearly out. If she found enough firewood, it would keep her warm for the rest of the night and possibly until midday the next day. So she hopped into her woolly loafers and headed outside. As soon as she had opened the door, a fresh gust of wind blew into her face. It carried a nice, sweet smell that she tried to identify. Candyfloss! She could not remember when she had last smelled candyfloss. Probably the last time she had gone to the village fair – might have been well over a decade ago. And where was this scent coming from? She looked towards the village, which lay at the foot of the ben where her little cabin stood. Something seemed to be happening in Donkington. She could make out a big red something where the marketplace was. Only the center of the village was illuminated. The outskirts were slowly being devoured by the encroaching darkness. The good burghers of Donkington must have left their houses to have a look at the big red something in the marketplace. Should she…? It was awfully cold and she really did not want to go out on such a night, but if there was an event in the village, chances were that there would be a few cosy fires on the go.

So that was settled then.

When she arrived at the marketplace, she realised that what she had seen from the cabin was a big red tent stretching from the bakery all the way to the koi-fountain. There was a young man standing right next to the entrance of the tent. He looked like the sort of fella who would know what goes on in big red tents that pop up out of nowhere in the middle of the night and keep you from going out to get firewood. She would ask him. TO BE CONTINUED…

Another Friday, another instalment of Caro’s story – the penultimate chapter:

The urge to interrupt him before he had finished was overwhelming. But the old woman thought it would be impolite to approach the young man straight away, as he seemed to be busy alternately staring at a slip of paper in his hand and squinting into the middle distance. He eventually turned on his heels and sat down on the edge of the koi fountain. That was her cue. She walked towards him, past a woman with white hair who was sat at a little table and playing a game of Patience. Before she could reach him though, she noticed an advertising poster that was tacked to the tent cloth.

She took a closer look. “Dodos…” she murmured. It had been years since she’d heard them mentioned. Of course, when she was a child, they’d had loads of dodos at their place. Her favourite had been Bobo – not her choice of name, she always hastened to add. If she’d had the choice, she would have called him something nice, like Percivall. But she had gotten Bobo – name and all – from the local bakery. That is to say, Mrs Doe, the baker’s wife used to own Bobo when he was little. But Mr Doe soon got fed up with him, as he had to throw out too many pies and pastries that had dodo-footprints on them. So the old woman’s parents (she wasn’t an old woman at the time, she was actually a young girl back then) had adopted Bobo. The family already owned some fifty dodos who were roaming freely in the grounds around their mansion. One more or less wouldn’t make a difference.

And now there were Dodos once again. TO BE CONTINUED…

Here we have the final instalment of Caro’s story! Caro will be heading back to Heidelberg University this week and she will be sorely missed here at AJT:

It was just for one night. This might be her last chance to see them – because she was getting on a bit, if she was honest.

“Are you going to go see them?” It was the young man who was sitting on the koi fountain. The old woman put on her thinking face. She had been asking herself the same question and had known that she would not be able to make up her mind. So use of the thinking face was designed to delay things at least a little bit longer. But the young man continued on his quest for an answer or conversation or whatever he was looking for. “There’s minigolf as well!”, he said enthusiastically. He tried this strategy now; if he pretended to know what he was talking about, then maybe the ensuing conversation would give him some clues as to the nature of the show that he was letting himself in for. “Minigolf!”, the old woman said in surprise. “Well, I suppose then I should really, shouldn’t I?” She had no idea what the young man was talking about. Probably one of those new things that young people got up to. Unwilling to show her ignorance of those things, she decided to go along with it; she would find out eventually what the young man was talking about.

So the young man’s strategy had not quite worked out for him.

“Lady and gentleman…”, the white-haired woman interrupted. She apparently had finished her card game and was now standing at the tent entrance, with both hands on a big red bobble, attached to a long string dangling from the entrance. “… the show is now ready for you!”, she said. The old woman and the young man looked at each other. They were the only people standing at the entrance of this big top. Was no one else going to see this show?

The white-haired woman pulled at the bobble.

The red, plushy curtain lifted.

The old woman and the young man entered the tent. THE END

Would you like to spin a yarn and continue the story? Use the random line generator and put pen to paper… it’s good fun 🙂



A photoshoot with ethical brand Finisterre

Entrepreneurs that surf: A day out at Finisterre

As a translation company, we strive to do business ethically, it’s one of our core values. This means treating our translators with respect, paying fair prices and caring about the long-term success of our customers, not just about our own bottom line. So when ethical surf brand Finisterre recently approached me to feature in their blog series ‘Entrepreneurs that surf’, I was understandably over the moon!

Besides making super functional, long lasting clothing for the cold water surf industry, Finisterre are deeply committed to sourcing fabrics responsibly and choosing their places of manufacture carefully. Their iSPY Traceability Programme fosters transparency for suppliers and customers alike. As a surfer, I love their clothing (the Stratus body warmer – made from recycled fabrics – is my favourite). As a business owner, I identify with and aspire to their way of doing business.

Check out the Entrepreneurs that surf blog or read more about the iSPY Traceability Programme.