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.





Random thoughts on business

7 09 2012

I would like to start this post today with a quote from the book “The Work We Were Born to Do” by Nick Williams. I am currently reading it and have been thinking about this a lot recently:

“Another popular belief is that we have to do lousy work to get filthy lucre. When we are more focused on negative thoughts around money, we tend to believe that we have to do unpleasant things to acquire money…”

I could not count how many times I have been told that I worry too much about the work I deliver, particularly when I started my business. Initially I was tempted to believe that I had to work faster, outsource as much as people and deliver medium quality translations if I was to have a profitable business. Believe me, I have seen that over and over with large translation agencies, mostly because they get too big for their own good. The truth is that most clients who need a translation don’t necessarily speak the target language and probably do not have any means of checking whether the work done for them is of good quality or not. So it is very easy, and many translators do in this business, to get way with less than medium quality in at least 70% of the jobs.

Fortunately, I can’t do it! I actually love translating, I love the idea that I can convey a message written in one language, by someone with a different background and cultural values, in another language. I actually take pride in delivering the best translation I can do, regardless of whether my client will be able to tell the difference or not. If I don’t get any fulfillment out of my work, I am working just for money and that does not fulfill me.

Early in my business I decided to surround myself with like-minded people, both translators and clients. When I choose a translator to outsource work to, the first thing I want to know is how much pride they take in their job. From terminology research, spell checking and formating to their comments about how difficult they found a particular job, why they decided to choose a term over another and etc. I want to know that even if a translator does not deliver the most perfect of jobs, they actually did the best they could. I am willing to help this translator develop and take his/her ability to new levels, but I am not willing to work with people who don’t like what they do. Unhappy people are like rotten apples, they bring everybody else and your business down.

I seek a similar commitment in my clients, of course I don’t turn anyone down outright, but  I have a few principles I abide by. Firstly, I refuse to have more clients than I can handle –  that also factors in outsourcing, when I know I’ll need to revise the work before delivering and etc. I refuse to work for someone who thinks that what I do is worth less than peanuts. I believe in competition and fair pricing, but when I get requests to cut my rates to like 25% of what I would normally charge, I find it a little disrespectful, because it is like the client is telling me that the quality of my work is only worth 25% of what I charge. My vision for my business is to create a portfolio of customers who are happy with the services they got and are happy to come back whenever they need more translations. I have a key role in ensuring that, but so do my clients.

It may sound a little big-headed in this economy and climate to be saying that I want to choose my clients. But what I have learned from trial and error and some difficult experiences is that I don’t need to have a portfolio of 20,000 clients who pay me 25% of what I my services are worth and expect me to be a machine and translate at the speed of light. There is a market for it and there are service providers to supply it. I am not competing in that market.

I like knowing my clients by name, taking time to have a chat with them about what they want, what they need the translation for and going over their questions about the job delivered. I actually like it when they ask me about my choices for terminology and etc., because I know that they have taken an interest. Usually clients like that will pay what you are worth and will also be really demanding, but the final outcome of the job is satisfactory for you both and that is what I want my business to be about.

Ever since I set myself and my business in that path, funnily enough my revenue has gone up and my hours have gone down. I still work hard, sometimes on weekends and late hours, but I actually enjoy it. I sometimes need a holiday to rest and take my mind off things, but the holidays are not a break between periods of slaving at work and feeling miserable. My holidays now are breaks to allow me some distance to have more ideas and engage with more interesting people to come back and continue to develop my business.

What I have really come to realize is that when you are not chasing money, it finds its way to you and you get to do what you like; it just takes a bit of courage to believe in it to begin with and to keep believing it and working for it until it happens to you.





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.