The day we stop learning should be the day we close our business - Interview with translator Nicole Y. Adams

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This is the fourth in our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry - we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Nicole Y. Adams of www.nyacommunications.com.

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself (your background, how long you’ve been translating, where you're from and where people can find you)?

Thank you very much for inviting me to take part in this new series, Jovana. I appreciate it. I'm a certified and publicly appointed German/English translator and specialise in PR, marketing and corporate communications. I hold a masters in English language and linguistics, and diplomas in marketing communications and PR. I also offer translator consulting services aimed at new colleagues who are just starting out as freelancers in the translation industry. Having lived, studied and worked in the US, Germany and the UK, I settled in Australia in 2010. I now live with my family in beautiful subtropical Brisbane and am loving it!

Last year, I published a book on how to succeed in the language industry beyond translation. Diversification in the Language Industry features almost 50 wonderful colleagues from all over the world and is available from Amazon. You can contact me through my website www.nyacommunications.com, as well as at my Translator consulting site www.nyatransconsult.com, or find me on Twitter at @NYAcomm as well as on Facebook and LinkedIn.

How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?

I never 'decided' to become a translator. In fact, when I left school I had no idea that there was such a thing. Crazy, I know! For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about languages. In school, one of my essays compared the German translation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath with its English original. That should have been a clue that I was destined for a language/translation career, but I went on to study law, politics, history and North American literature and linguistics. I then worked in-house in a number of multilingual roles until, by chance, I came across a translation assignment posted online by an agency. I applied, got the job, got paid – and was hooked! The rest is history.

What have you done to improve your translation skills in the last year?

Last year I teamed up with an excellent new editor who has given me some very useful input on my writing, which – even after over ten years – I found very helpful. After all, the day we stop learning and improving should be the day we close our business! I also like to read press releases and brochures published in my areas of specialisation to stay up to date with the language current in the industry and explore different styles used by translators and copywriters. It's always fascinating to see how someone else has approached a challenging text, and often this can give us useful ideas for future translations.

How do you prepare for a translation project?

With a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (depending on the time of day) in my hand, my foot spa under the desk and Jazz FM on the radio. ;-) Seriously, most of my projects are long-term repeat projects, so I would usually check that I have the most up-to-date glossary and that there are no new client preferences or guidelines. I then check my notes with client preferences (terminology and/or style) and scan the text for any unusual terminology so I can research it or ask the client before starting the translation process. I also open reference files, such as finished PDFs of previous versions if it's an employee magazine or brochure. Finally, I check that the file is ready to be imported into MemoQ, my favourite CAT tool, and if not, I prepare it accordingly. Then I'm usually good to go.

What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

For me, it's definitely the admin side of things. I enjoy translating and marketing so much that I tend to put off admin tasks, including quarterly tax statements and invoicing, until the last possible minute.

What excites you the most about the languages you work with?

How about 'everything'?! ;-) One of the aspects I really enjoy is completely transforming a text so that the original is no longer visible. In marketing especially, the opportunities we have to transcreate a text are wonderful. I love the whole process of 'rethinking' a text in the target language structure. But truth be told, I think there's nothing that doesn't excite me about working with German and English 24/7.

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What is the funniest translation experience you can remember?

The most unusual experience will always be a private client, a respectable and married(!) businessman who had hundreds of pages of personal letters to his secret lover translated over a period of several years. It was fascinating to be a part of this process and witness the slow but steady downfall of his secret relationship and his increasing desperation and outrageous declarations of love – ultimately to no avail.

What are good or bad things about freelancing?

I have only good things to say about freelancing. I enjoy working for myself and certainly could never work in an office again. The best part about freelancing is that you're your own boss; you decide when to get up and what to wear, who to do business with and how many hours a day to work. These advantages are priceless.

Some freelancers report that they feel a bit isolated, but this isn't the case for me. It's great to have the option of meeting colleagues or friends for coffee or lunch, or of going to the gym during the day and working in the evening if I wish. No other job can offer the same sense of freedom as being self-employed. Freelancing is definitely the way to go!

What are you wishes for 2014? What excites you, what are you sceptical about?

My wishes for 2014 are to stay healthy, to maintain a work-life balance, and to keep doing what I love: marketing and PR translations. My wish for the industry as a whole would be to see less whingeing and complaining about 'evil' agencies and machine translation, and more focus on what's really important: being the best translators we can be, offering a topnotch service to our clients, and continually improving our business and marketing skills. Only we have the power to change things from within.

What would you pass on as personal advice to new translators?

Make sure that freelance translating is really what you want to do, and that it suits your personality and skill set. Browse translator forums and read as much as you can about getting established. Join a professional association and attend networking events and workshops. Try to find a mentor (in person is best, but online is also possible). Be realistic and realise that the first two to three years will be very hard work, but once you come out on the other side, it'll be the best career you could hope for! Also try to specialise as soon as you can, and think outside the square to see what other skills you can use in addition to translating to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Thanks to Nicole for the answers!