Avenues for Medical Translators in Brazil

12 04 2013

“Not many sectors of the Brazilian economy have grown as rapidly and consistently as the medicine market. Since 2005, expansion rates in this sector have been well into double digits. In 2011, the market grew by 19 %, with a turnover of USD 26 billion and 2.3 billion medicine packs”, according to the pharmaceutical giant, boehringer-ingelheim’s website.

Such a large market is a natural magnet for global pharmaceutical giants and, needless to say, a great opportunity for medical and pharmaceutical translators. In addition to the drug and pharmaceutical markets, there is medical and market research, which in some ways complement the first, but also have their own established markets.

There are several avenues available to medical translators who wish to initiate or expand their careers in this market. We’ll discuss a few of them briefly below.

Firstly, there is medical and pharmaceutical research. Medical research in Brazil is conducted mainly at universities or research centres and is funded by sponsoring agencies or by pharmaceutical companies. The first consideration here is whether you translate into English or into Brazilian Portuguese.  Generally, we tend to prefer native speakers to translate only into their native languages.

Based on that assumption, if you are Brazilian, researchers in Brazil are not a good bet, because they will need to translate their work into English- they have very little demand for translations into Portuguese, because they usually need their research translated for international publishing. However, due to the fluid nature of Brazilian Portuguese and how hard it is for foreigners to master its nuances, the fact that these researchers often write part of the work in English (which usually means you have to interpret how they thought in Portuguese to be able to review the content in English) and Brazilian regulations that make it very hard for them to hire services abroad (taxation and funding issues), researchers hardly ever hire foreign translators. Hence, they are not a market to be overlooked if you are able to translate well into English. Researchers are also usually demanding clients (because they speak English), but loyal and often refer you to their peers.

Pharmaceutical companies are the biggest buyers of Brazilian Portuguese translations in this market. They need the research that they sponsor abroad (clinical trials, etc.), patent documentation, prospects, marketing materials, etc. all translated and localized for the Brazilian market. Hence they are great clients and a constant source of demand. However, due to the sensitive nature of their research and products they often prefer to hire companies to provide translation services. The reasons behind this are many, but to pinpoint a couple, they can hold translation agencies more easily accountable for errors and confidentiality breaches. Plus, translation agencies will implement processes involving a series of translators and reviewers to ensure accuracy. If you do not own an agency, you are more likely to get to these clients through a specialist medical agency. Serious medical translation agencies are excellent to work for, because they are aware of the responsibility involved and pay accordingly for your expertise. In addition, they will strive to keep working with you when you demonstrate quality. You are able to work closely with their project managers, but they will require serious qualifications and experience.

Another avenue is pharmaceutical and medical market research, which is arguably the easiest to enter, but also the most price sensitive. This is driven by pharmaceutical companies and other medical product manufacturers that hire specialist market research companies to gain insight into their consumer markets. The market research companies will procure the translation services and are price sensitive, because they often work on tighter budgets and need to cover costs of travel, interviewing etc. Nonetheless, they can be an excellent avenue into the medical market and have the most dynamic demand – i.e. they’ll need documents, audio and several different other types of documents translated.

These are key features of the medical translation market in Brazil. Naturally, there a number of nuances that affect how much work you receive and how much you can earn, but as a general rule you should aim to have a mixture of clients from each of these avenues, i.e. market research companies, translation agencies and researchers. This will ensure you are both in demand and able to specialize in an area (e.g. patents), which provides an effective compensation structure for your services.





10 Things freelance translators could do everyday

1 04 2013

Today I have come across a post by J.T. O’Donnell on LinkedIn, 10 things to do every workday, which inspired me to think about 10 things that freelance translators could do every day.

I have taken the liberty to adapt her list to the reality of freelance translators. First of all, my two basic assumptions for this list are 1) every freelance translator is also an entrepreneur wishing to develop his/her translation business; 2) Freelance translators have understood the need to be visible online for their business and  make time for that on a daily basis. If you are a freelance translator and assumptions 1 and 2 do not apply to you, I suggest you consider them seriously, but on to the list…

1. Read Something related to the translation industry – There are many interesting blogs about translation, such as Corinne Mckay’s Thoughts on translation and Speaking of translation; there are interesting discussions on LinkedIn groups for translators or about translation, such as the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters and others. You may also read the news about new CAT tools on their respective websites. Feel free to ask for more suggestions if you are struggling to find interesting reads!

2. Read something related to business development – Again, some of these translation blogs and groups will have articles on business development for translators, but do not limit yourself to those. Make sure you also read other blogs and articles related to business development, as they may have invaluable insight for your business. I personally like following famous entrepreneurs on LinkedIn, like Richard Branson, and reading what they have to say about developing businesses.

3. Send two e-mails to touch base with former colleagues or clients – If you endeavor to have a positive relationship with your clients and colleagues, you’ll always be able to find something to send them that may be of interest to them or just a general e-mail to ask how things are going.

4. Empty client inbox list – This is business 1o1; enough said.

5. Have three quick non-work related conversations (in person or IM) with people in your contact lists everyday. Obviously, this is an arbitrary number, you need to work out how many of these you can have a day without disrupting your work. This is important because it is not all about work, sometimes the opportunities are in developing good relationships and focusing on the people, rather then on what business they can bring you. In my experience, a lot of my business has come from friends and people who knew in passing what I did, but were not necessarily in the industry or clients in any way. Even if they never bring you any business, having these spots of unrelated conversation everyday will keep you sane (specially if you work for hours at home and alone), so treasure them!

6. Review your top three goals for your translation business. We must keep these goals in focus. It is very easy to forget about them when we are on a working spree with enough translations to works 10-12 hours a day, but it is no good only thinking about them when work dries up. As translators, we love reading and translating, and it is easy to forget about all other aspects of our business when we can do just what we like, but the dry periods will come (less often the more established you are) and it is much harder dealing with those, if you have to start from scratch.

7. Identify and execute one task to support each of the top three goals that you’ve identified. These do not need to be massive tasks or incredibly relevant. If you make sure you do at least a little something everyday, in the long term you will be doing something major. For example, my current goals are 1) delivering high quality translations; 2) developing a solid and loyal client base and 3) promoting my business online consistently. So, today,  my three tasks are learning about a new CAT tool provided by a client to support goal 1; in addition to steps 3-5, I’ll be joining some new LinkedIn groups related to areas in which I specialize (not translation related groups, but subject matter related groups) to support goal 2; and, finally, I’ll be updating some of my social network profiles, which have not been updated in a long time to support goal 3.

8. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts. This blog post is one of my five valuable pieces of content for today, but I have also tweeted a couple of other interesting articles that I read when doing items 1-2. When posting valuable content, make sure you always think about whether they reflect your professional image.

9. Read articles and post at least five comments to non-translation related topics that I am interested in. This is not related to items 1 and 2, this is to be more like item 5. Not everything has to be related directly to our industry or our business. If you have other interests make sure you read about them and develop relationships with people who like them too. This is important for your sanity and because you never know where business may come from. Also, we are in the business of language, so no topic is really off-topic for us.

10. Take a full minute (or more) to appreciate what you have and how far you’ve come. Even if you are fresh out of school, obtaining your education is a milestone, and you should allow yourself to feel good about that. Forgetting about giving ourselves due credit is easy, particularly during those dry periods I mentioned in item 6, but a healthy business requires healthy leadership. You will never develop a solid business, if you don’t think of yourself as a worthy entrepreneur. Acknowledge your mistakes, but acknowledge your what do right as well.

Good luck!





Driving quality up in the translation industry

14 12 2012

I have just read the comments to an interesting post about translation buyers’ expectations in terms of quality. The issue is approached by many of the translators commenting on the topic as if the quality of translations depended solely on clients and on what they were are willing to pay for it. They make a valid point that if clients are looking for the cheapest job in the quickest time frame possible, a serious translator cannot help but “swim or sink” and that means compromising on quality.

Our industry is full of clutter. Translation is a service that can often be provided remotely from anywhere in the world to clients anywhere in the world. The initial investment is a household connection to the Internet and a computer. Hence, there are thousands (if not millions) of translation agencies and freelancers, who provide translation services independently worldwide, without qualifications, experience or even adequate knowledge of the language pairs they provided services for. Competition may sometimes look fierce, because translators in developed countries compete against providers in developing countries that can offer much cheaper services. Also, there aren’t regulations applicable to all countries that can help translators put a cap on their prices.

I can understand why many dedicated translators are frustrated with their position and the unfair sort of competition they find themselves in, but I would like to approach the topic from a different perspective.

Naturally, a demand on the buyer side for quality will drive the overall quality of the industry up. This is a very straightforward concept, but can the seller side of the industry drive quality up too without compromising its revenue? I think so.

I have read it somewhere (it may not be true, but still a valid point) that Apple does not invest on market research. Their philosophy is to “create amazing” and they firmly believe that if they can do that, customers will find it amazing too and pay a fair price for their products. In fact, we are so much in awe of what they create that some people are willing to pay for products before they are even launched, because they know they’ll be the first owners of something amazing.

In every industry there is room for quality and innovation. We don’t create technology or innovation in its strict sense as translators, but we too can create amazing. If instead of thinking what our clients’ expectations in terms of quality are, we think long and hard about what our expectations are, we have a chance of creating something better than they ever expected.  We are the experts in translation and in our language pair, hence who better than us to set the bar high for the job that we’ll deliver?

Right, easy to say, but what to do about the competition? There are several markets within a market. There is the market for cheap translations, and let’s face it, sometimes speed is more important than price, it doesn’t matter if the document produced doesn’t say exactly what the original text said (in which case I would argue against the need for a translation in the first place,  but that is an entirely different topic), or although the client would love to pay more they just can’t afford it. There is a market and there are providers who cater for it. There will always be.

However, there is also a high-end market; this is not as price sensitive and will put quality over price and speed. This is the market we should aim for if we want to drive quality up. I am not suggesting that we become inflexible, but as service providers we must decide where we are prepared to compromise and where we aren’t. For example,  I am prepared to compromise a few nights sleep to complete a job within a tight deadline for a client with whom I have a good relationship, i.e. who is willing to pay a rate we both find fair and is loyal to my services. I am not compromising my sleep over a low paying overnight job from an agency that is charging their client an urgency rate, but is unwilling to pay me for the urgency.

Naturally, I can do this now because I have been building a client base for many years. My clients have selected me as their provider over the years and I have selected them too. However, when I started I wasn’t known in my field and couldn’t be as choosy about the jobs I  took. My approach then was compromising on everything, but quality. Even if an agency would ask me to do a ridiculous amount of words overnight for a much better rate (fully aware that there was no way anyone could deliver a good job in that sort of time frame), if I didn’t think I could deliver a quality job I would say no. Many people said I was crazy: “It will take you weeks now to make what you could have made in a day!” and it did feel crazy and a bit masochistic many times, but to me it was about the long term and it has payed off! If all serious translators did that, we would force agencies and even clients to challenge the quality of translations more often and become more aware of the importance of quality- i.e. we could drive quality up. The only reason not to do that is if we believe that we cannot rise to the challenge. I certainly can.





Trados Studio 2009

3 09 2012

I acquired Trados Studio as a requirement of one of the agencies I work with. In fact, they awarded me a license in exchange for the quality services provided to them.

I had already been using Trados 2007 before, and one of the things that really annoyed me was the fact that there was no spell check for tag editor. So I had to do the spell check in the clean file at the end and implement the changes in the tag editor, to make sure that the memory wasn’t full of spelling mistakes.

Trados Studio has that tool and that is great. However, if you are a novice with it, make sure you run the spell check in the clean file anyway, because unfortunately the trados spell check is not brilliant. Not even for English.

I still love tag editor. I think it is the most effective in terms of tag use and many of the agencies I work with prefer it if I used tag editor to studio. Studio can be a bit annoying with tag insertion and etc.

One advantage of Studio 2009 is that it opens PDF files into editable bilingual formats. This is great when the pdf file is selectable and has certainly made many assignments easier, but beware that sometimes, due to features of pdf files, it jams and doesn’t save your work. So what I usually do to minimize that is save the bilingual and target files after every 10% complete. At least I know that if it jams and doesn’t save at some point, I won’t have lost all my work (Believe me, it has happened a few times!).

One thing I love about it is that at the bottom of the interface (see image below) it shows the percentage of not translated segments, translated but not confirmed and confirmed segments. This really helps me organize my time. I usually do the first 10% of the text and time it, so then I know how long it will take me to do the lot. I try to organize my time based on that and plan how much I need to do a day to meet my deadline. This is more accurate than having to estimate the word count all the time and has somehow really sped up my translations.

Overall, I use a combination of studio 2009 and tag editor 2007 and other CAT tools. I recommend always using a CAT tool with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately there are still no single effective CAT solutions for translators (at least not amongst the many I have tried).

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Working with Glossaries

29 08 2012

Well, I have been fortunate enough to manage terminology and consistency in group translations into Portuguese and English and I find working with glossaries very handy, both for harmonization and revision.

I usually provide my translators with a bilingual glossary created in Excel format, very simple…In addition to implementing all the terms in the glossary, I ask them to add the terms they research to it as well. However, they don’t just add terms; the latter must be approved by myself or whoever is revising the translation. So, they highlight the new terms with a specific color, usually yellow, and deliver it with every partial delivery of the translation.

The reviser goes over the terms, and approves or changes the translation, highlighting all of the new terms (amended or not) in a new colour, usually blue.

The reviser does that for all translators and consolidates all of the new terms highlighted in blue in a single version of the glossary.

Also, if any changes have been made to the translation of terms since the last version of the glossary, the reviser highlights those in a different color as well, usually red.

This version is then resent to all translators and they are asked to read through the new terms and implement the changes or new terms as appropriate.

After delivering that file to all translators, the reviser removes the highlights from all the terms and saves the official final version of the glossary. This is done every time translators deliver a new partial version of the translation, so that the glossary is enhanced and approved throughout the process and each time only the relevant terms are highlighted.

I find this really useful to help translators align the translation during the process of translation. This simplifies the work of the reviser and really helps translators in their terminology research.





Researching Terminology

13 08 2012

I am working on a technical manual for a mining company and I have come across a term that I will need to research a bit more thoroughly so I will show you step by step how I usually go about it.

The term in Portuguese is “madeira contraventada” (which is wood + a female adjective) and the manual is talking about types of rail cars made of this material. I want to translate it into English.

My first attempt at finding it is going to Proz Terminology and trying to find it there. No luck. The only thing I can find there is the opposite of the male word “não-contraventado“, which is “unbraced”. A long shot would say that “madeira contraventada” would be “braced wood”. I am not sure that “braced wood” is a term in English, Google translator (and this is one of the few acceptable uses for  google translator in professional translation -i.e. a word guide) does not have a translation for “contraventada” anyway.

So my next step, is to determine exactly what contraventada is in Portuguese. According to the dictionary, it means “supported, strengthened, made more resistant”, which seems to match the meaning found for “braced” in my hardcopy English<>Portuguese dictionary.

This is promising, so I do a quick search on Google UK to see if it comes up with entries for “braced wood”. (Important tip: make sure you search exclusively websites from an English-speaking country; do not go into Google Brazil and try to find it, because you may find several mistranslations that will mislead you into thinking you have got the right term. If you are Brazilian, you probably construe meaning in a similar way to other Brazilians, so a translation that may seem to make sense to you, because it did for another Brazilian, will not necessarily be the right term).  There are 3,140 entries, which is not that much in Google terms, but the term has been found in websites such as the “Engineered Wood Products Association“, which seems to be a reputable agency in the U.S. in the relevant industry.

Hence, I am satisfied that I have a good, or at least understandable, translation for my term.

I hope this process is helpful to other translators. Suggestions are always welcome.

 





Quotes

13 08 2012

Today I am translating an educational manual for a large Brazilian mining company and it begins with a George Bernard Shaw Quote.

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

This is one of the beauties of translating, you are exposed to all these topics and ideas that you may have not sought otherwise, but once you have to work with them, they inspire you. Anyway, that is a topic for a different post (hopefully!).

This post is about quotes and this is a topic I find quite crucial in translation. The manual I am translating into English is currently in Brazilian Portuguese. As such, the quote has been translated into Portuguese and I am translating it back into English.

I believe that in such cases  there should be a note in the Brazilian manual to say that the quote has been translated, because there is always the potential for the message to be lost in translation and that is the translator’s not the author’s fault. However, this does not seem to be a consensus among translators.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to coordinate a group of translators working on a large book project. One section of the book contained articles from several different authors and most of them, at one point or another, would quote other people. There were two approaches to these translations in my group of translators -the ones who translated everything as regular text and the ones who looked up references and tried to find the original quotes or original translations for the quotes.

My personal approach to this, which is what I ask of my translators as well, is to always try to find the original quote. However, whenever using Internet sources, I try to be really careful about copying a quote, because there are cases when these are not accurate as well. If I cannot find a reliable source with the original quote or an official translation, within reasonable time, I always include a note to say that the quote is a translation or back translation of an original quote by such and such.

This seems to be a simple thing, but as professional translators we must be aware of the importance of authorship; as well as of how easy it is to mistranslate or misunderstand what someone has said, and we must take responsibility for that. A good translator is aware of the limitations of translation and, instead of covering them, provides subsidy for readers to seek and judge for themselves.