Coffee hour, July 15


I’m hosting another coffee hour for the Northern California Translators Association on July 15, 2017. If you’re going to be in the greater Sacramento area this summer, please join us from 10:30am–12:30pm at the Westfield Galleria for shop talk. Our last few gatherings have covered everything from local restaurants to national politics. Whatever is on your mind professionally, you are welcome to join us!

Details are on NCTA’s events page:


We are all translators.

For a little over a year now, I’ve technically been a part-time translator—by day, I work in my industry of specialization as a legal assistant. I draft, revise, and proofread legal writing five days a week, consult with court clerks, and prepare documents for filing. Two or three nights a week (on average—we all know how variable freelance schedules can be!), I continue to translate for agency and private clients and teach my source language to a couple students.


When my career as a translator was brand new, there was a pervasive idea among language professionals that you were only a “real” translator or interpreter if it was the sole way you earned your living. At least, that was the message I gleaned from all the industry publications and professionals blogs I read. Perhaps things have changed, and just in case it wasn’t obvious: however frequently you practice your craft, as long as you conduct yourself with professionalism and obtain the requisite training to do your work well, you are a professional.

There is room enough in this industry for all of us. Translation and interpreting are increasingly growing in demand. Tech companies continue to attempt to reduce translation to machine output, and the results continue to highlight the need for human conduits between languages A and B.

As a full-time translator, I appreciated the time I had to really delve deep into vocabulary research and work on glossary projects. As a moonlighter, I love how my legal translations have improved from the interactions I have with attorneys’ work products. “Moonlighting” has allowed me to streamline my translation work so that I get to spend a greater percentage of my time on what I love: words.

I know many of my colleagues in the industry would never give up the freedom to be had in independent contracting—and why should you? But I have found my greatest artistic freedom within the so-called limits of a 9-to-5. My freelance clients continue to be happy with my work. And I don’t feel any less a translator than I ever did.

This story is in no way a defense: I hope only to inspire other translators to be true to themselves. If you love being your own boss and exploring your interests on your own terms, keep doing it. If you love the structure, stability, or socialization of an office job, get one. And if you love being a professional translator, be one, under whatever conditions you thrive upon. Your language skills are valuable, and however much you want to share them with the world in an educated, professional manner, the contribution is needed and appreciated.

We are all translators, no matter how often we can do the work.

Quality assurance training opportunity

A little bit of exciting news:

The American Translators Association is hosting a webinar with me on June 16th, 12pm (noon) EDT. I’ll present techniques and tricks for proofreading your work efficiently and effectively, plus some of the science behind why they work. Register here today!

Here’s a quick sampling of my reference materials:
Building Great Sentences, by Brooks Landon
The Fine Art of Copyediting, by Elsie Myers Stainton
The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin

For more information, click here. I hope you can join us!

Dealing with change

It has been a long while since I’ve shared my thoughts with you, and that deserves some explanation. The last year has brought some significant shifts in my private life. Something had to give. I hope you have enjoyed scouring the archives in the meantime.

Without making any promises about the regularity of future posts, I want to share some ideas that helped me keep my business growing while dealing with the heavier stuff behind the scenes. No one is immune to change, whether to their health, relationships, or goals. You have to learn to manage them—wanted or not.


1. Systems and routines minimize the energy you must spend on your business and allow you to maintain some semblance of continuity. You should decide in advance which systems are essential, and which can be let go temporarily.

I suggest keeping a bare-bones social media presence alive, a daily industry news habit, and the administrative and production tasks that regular client work demands. Everything else—seeking out lots of new business, building fun marketing campaigns, planning world domination—can probably slip a little without harming your business. Look at your own data and make the call. Think of it as part of your emergency preparedness plan.

2. A wise person once told me, “Relax. This will not be the biggest growth period in your business history, and that’s OK. That can come later. Probably sooner than you expect.” Don’t force it. Accept that the present will become the past, quickly.

3. Maintain relationships with your core group of colleagues. You don’t need to broadcast your troubles to the world, but do let some key people know why you are scaling back temporarily. Camaraderie works!

These three pieces of advice served me well in the last year. I gave a successful presentation to a welcoming group of colleagues in Chicago, joined a great group of local businesspeople in my local Chamber of Commerce, and signed on as translator of a book (much sooner than I anticipated in my 10-year plan). Hopefully, this advice helps you, too.

If you have any thoughts or tips to add about freelancing during rocky times, let us know in the comments.
Happy translating!

Certification for language professionals and their work

I’ll be speaking at the Hacker Lab in Sacramento, CA again! This time with a co-presenter.

Join me and Clarissa Laguardia on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 10:30am–noon for a discussion of the laws and current practices surrounding certification for language professionals and their work here in California* (with some broader discussion of practices in the US and abroad).

Learn about opportunities for interpreter certification, translator certification for rare languages, laws about who can certify translations for use in filings, and the language used for certifying translations. For a taste of what we’ll be looking at, see this California government code.

Questions we’re planning to answer:

  • What does “certified linguist” mean? Who does the certifying?
  • Why would I ever need a certified translation?
  • How do I get a translation certified?
  • What about rare languages? How do I get certified or find a certified linguist for an uncommon language?

What else would you like to know? Ask your questions below, or send me an email at carolyn [at] untangledtranslations [dot] com!

Unable to attend? Sign up for my newsletter to get the slides as a PDF following the presentation!

*This presentation is intended for information purposes only for interpreters, translators, and those who need to hire them. It does not constitute legal advice; for questions about specific situations, make sure to consult your lawyer.

An afternoon with ABBYY, Feb. 18, in Sacramento

ABBYYpackageTranslators and interpreters are invited to a special Sacramento coffee hour at Hacker Lab on Tuesday, February 18, from 3:30–5:00pm. This is part of the new series of regional events within the Northern California Translators Association.

My review of ABBYY FineReader was recently featured on the ABBYY website, and I will be giving a short presentation on how I use the OCR tool in my translation workflow. All attendees will receive a discount code for the software and be eligible to win one free downloadable copy of FineReader Pro (for Mac or PC), valued at up to $169.99.

I will be posting a pre-recorded version of the presentation shortly after the event, so don’t worry if you’re too far to attend in person! Sign up for my newsletter if you’re interested in the discount codes; they’ll be valid February 17–27 only.

A representative from ABBYY will be available to answer your questions and hear your feedback about the product. Snacks, drinks, and meeting space provided courtesy of Monica Nainsztein, CEO of SpanishOne Translations.RSVP to me at by February 15th. Space is limited!

Event Details
Date: February 18, 2014
Time: 3:30–5:00pm
Location: Hacker Lab, 1715 I St., Sacramento, CA 95811

February coffee chat

Just in case you hadn’t heard…

coffee cups

On the 2nd Wednesday of every month, linguists and linguaphiles (and folks interested in hiring them) can join me for coffee at the Galleria in Roseville, CA. I host this as a member of the Northern California Translators Association, and everyone is welcome. We talk about everything from entrepreneurship to folk music!

Next month’s coffee chat will be on February 12, 2014. See more details here (link is to January’s chat, but the location and time stay the same month to month).

If you can’t make it in person, we can still take a break together via video chat. Talk to me if you’re interested!

2014 Plans

bright winter morning

Ahh, I love the smell of a fresh new year! And I have a feeling 2014 is going to be pretty darn exciting. Here are some of the plans I’m looking forward to digging in to:

  • Reaching out to more direct clients. I dipped my toes in the water of this one a bit last year, but I would like to get some better results. This means stepping up my game by collaborating with colleagues for editing services, developing useful outreach materials, and visiting places where potential clients might gather. I’m also putting together a regular newsletter to keep in touch with all my current clients (agency PMs or otherwise) and colleagues—sign up here!
  • Getting my face out there more, in preparation for eventually speaking professionally. I have terrible stage fright; this is a big move I’ll need to take in small stages. Last month, I hosted the second of my local coffee chats for translators and interpreters. Now I’m going to start advertising them to potential clients, too. I’d also like to incorporate video chats into my professional life more. Keep an eye out here for some “live” interviews, in lieu of transcripts!
  • Writing a few articles for client and translator publications. I’ve got a solid core of ideas from my experience with writing for you, and now I’d like to expand a bit and direct some writing at potential clients, too. Anyone have any tips for me?
  • Getting some sort of language certification for Hungarian (a colleague recommended the OPI LTI test). I know I can translate Hungarian, but some people want more proof than my own word. This is step one in a longer-term plan for having formal training in Hungarian-specific translation.

To be honest, I’ve already started working on some of my 2014 goals. I was just too excited by some of my ideas to let them wait until the calendar change.

What about you? How have you mapped out your new year?

2013 Year in Review

I set some broad goals for myself as I entered my first full calendar year as a full-time freelancer. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with 2013. Schedules got a bit hairy around my move to California, and I won’t say business didn’t suffer at all… But I definitely feel different, more comfortable in my professional skin. And that can’t be bad!

Here’s a look back at my goals, with more specific thoughts on each:

  • acting as Secretary for the National Capital Area Translators Association, the DC-area subgroup of the ATA (thanks, all members who voted for me!). I had to step down a couple months shy of the full year due to my cross-country move, but I like to think I made an impact. We had regular, interesting content up on our website and social media sites. A bunch of younger translators joined, perhaps because of some of the outreach events I found for us to attend. And towards the end, I took on web manager duties as well—which went pretty smoothly. It was an experience to remember!
  • getting my website translated into French and Hungarian. I actually did this twice this year—on my own last January, and then through a couple out-of-English colleagues in November after I updated my site structure. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as I expected to have colleagues translate my site, and it involved far less hair-pulling than the DIY route. My advice? Do your pricing research before you try it yourself. You could save yourself a lot of time better spent researching leads.
  • focusing my writing on the art of translation. I have tried to include a good number of posts on writing, editing, and terminology. What have you liked? Disliked? Is there anything you’d like me to cover in the upcoming year?
  • becoming more involved in client-oriented groups. I attended several web/phone conferences hosted by the American Bar Association, an in-person symposium, and the ATA conference. But there’s always room for more, especially now that I live so far from my original home base.
  • learning more about my subject-matter areas. I think I knocked this one out of the park this year. A couple classes through Coursera on EU and entrepreneur law, some ABA events on legal research and antitrust issues, not to mention all the wonderful sessions in San Antonio.

How was your 2013? What accomplishment are you most proud of? What unexpected challenge did you manage with style?

On my #translatorXmas list

In my post Tuesday, I asked you to share what’s on your Christmas list as a translator/interpreter/business owner. These are a few things that have been on my wish-list for a while, but haven’t made it into my professional budget (yet). Feel free to steal ideas to surprise your favorite linguist this holiday season!

Christmas presents


Everything Else

  • Custom-color pens (a pipe dream, really. The closest approximation I can think of is a fountain pen with Sailor New Style Purple ink.)

Did this get you thinking more? Share your ideas here! Use the hashtag #translatorXmas if you answer on Twitter. Just think of the headaches you’ll save your friends, family, and colleagues. The shopping’s practically done for them!

P.S.—The Quack This Way book giveaway is still open for entries. Get a copy as a present from me to you, or to gift to your favorite writer.