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Narrow Your Niche

2 min read

I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do. –Helen Keller.

Yesterday’s article in Forbes by Stephanie Burns, “The Ultimate Guide To Starting A Side Hustle Part 2: Narrow Your Niche,” came to my attention at the right time. For two weeks now I have been working on narrowing my blogging niche, as well as my translating practice.

Weeks earlier in this newsletter I mentioned in passing seeing a website that promised to translate everything, and not thinking that it would convince me to hire them. Imagine going to a doctor who said they could cure everything, or to a restaurant that served everything.

Perhaps among you there is someone who can translate or interpret everything. I certainly do not. To paraphrase Stephanie Burns, if we are caught up in “I can translate everything,” that is certainly a way for our translation or interpreting practice “to die to its death.”

The description of what we do should be such, she says, that when a prospect hears or reads it, they think, “That’s just what I need.”

So, how narrow a niche can we create in our industry? How about…

• Educational interpreter just for elementary schools?

• Medical interpreter just for chiropractors? Dentists?

• Legal interpreter only for insurance companies? Car dealerships?

• Translator for my local area’s mom-and-pop Latino store customers?

• Translator or interpreter for mixed martial artists?

My new blog will have a narrow niche, so will my renewed translation practice. But, obviously, I should also narrow this newsletter’s niche. Will you be kind enough to help me do that. Please email me your answer to the following question:

What is the most important thing for you at this moment in your translating or interpreting career?

[email protected]

Originally in November 16, 2020 issue

TRANSLATING WITH GUSTO

Two weeks ago, I suggested we stop saying we translate anything. Instead we should narrow our niche to attract more clients. By happy coincidence, I found a translator in England who had done just that.

Her name is Helen Barlow, and she translates, proofreads, and edits texts for the food and wine industry: menus, magazine articles, food blogs, food packaging and labelling, brochures, advertising, and promotional material, press releases, and wine labelling.

Since 2011 Helen has been translating from French, Spanish, and Portuguese into English. She says that making food wine sound enticing in English is her passion. 

My journey into food and wine exploration is fueled by my location-independent lifestyle; I live, travel and translate around the world, soaking up the ways in which food, wine and cultural tradition are so intrinsically linked.

“I have lived in my source language countries, including France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Peru and Italy, so cultural and linguistic nuances are in mind throughout the entire translation process.”

How do you stay informed on the trends in your niche? Helen says: “I continue my education by networking at industry-related trade fairs and expos, translation conferences, reading trade journals and of course, continuing to travel and taste.”

Enjoy, with a glass of wine, Helen’s exquisitely designed website at https://gustotranslations.com/about-gusto-translations/ 

Translators & Interpreters Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries



Nicaraguan Spanish


From Rubén Darío in early 20th Century to our day, Nicaragua has produced a first-class literature. Nicaraguan authors have crossed borders and oceans. Their works have been translated into dozens of languages. Nicaraguan Spanish does have phonetic, grammatical, and lexical characteristics that distinguish it from other varieties of Spanish. We will briefly mention some.

Usually. pronunciation differences do not interfere with our understanding of what is communicated. Sometimes in Nicaragua sounds are omitted or aspirated (puff of air), for example the [ s ] at the end of words or syllables, [ golpeh ] for [ golpes ]. You may also hear [ riales ] for [ reales ], or [ lao ] for [ lado ], variations you would hear in many other countries, including Spain, and which should not prevent your comprehension of the message.

Grammatical differences also pose minor comprehension problems. In Nicaragua, for example, the second-person familiar pronoun “tú” is almost never used. Instead, as in Argentina, “vos” is the preferred second-person familiar pronoun. In the present tense, the stress shifts to the final syllable: hablás and not hablas. The verb “ser” is an exception: “vos sos.”

Nicaraguan Spanish lexicon is enriched with hundreds of words that it inherited from nahuatl and other indigenous peoples. Some words may be a very old form inherited from Spain, for example “rejodido” instead of “muy jodido,” while others may be very young, anglicisms adopted from its past and present relationship with the United States.

There are some lexical uses that may be a source of misunderstanding. One is “hasta,” when meaning the beginning of an action, for example: “La escuela cierra hasta las cuatro.” The school closes at four, not until four. The use of the verb “prestar” to mean both to borrow and to lend used to make ask my mother to clarify what she meant when she said: “Tu padre le presto cien pesos a Vicente.” Did my father lend or did he borrow? It could be either in Nicaraguan Spanish.

Nicaraguan Spanish for Court and Immigration Proceedings will hopefully help you appreciate the richness of Nicaraguan Spanish., and I sincerely hope you will find that Nicaraguan people are deacachimba.

For more info: https://transculturallinguist.com/publications

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FINDING TRANSLATION OR INTERPRETING WORK—TREASURE HUNT OR NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK?



According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019 there were 77,400 translators in the United States. Other sources put the number at only 55,000, including interpreters, translators, and other jobs related to the industry, i.e., project managers, talent recruiters, etc. The Translation Association of China estimates there are 650,000 translators in the world, probably including interpreters in that rubric. Regardless of the actual number, the competition for jobs is fierce, often disheartening.

The number of translation agencies or LSPs (language services providers) in the United States is said to be over 3,000, worldwide 62,000. Other sources put the number of agencies as 48,000. A company’s world database includes 25,000, of which 5,100 are in North America. An online directory lists 7,256 translations agencies in the world, with 1,100 located in the United States.

Whatever the real number, marketing your skills to translation agencies, whether searching in online and association directories, or paying $59 for a translation agencies book, or 69 euros ($80.53) for a 25,000 database of agencies, will not be “a real treasure hunt,” as someone claims, but more like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack.

These books, databases, and directories are frozen in time. They do not list translations agencies’ current job openings, those currently willing to welcome your unsolicited application, or even the ones that are not really agencies at all, but a sole-proprietor translator working alone and not interested in hiring anyone.

To save you time and money in your job search, to help you grow your business and income, and to see you be successful, I have launched Translators & Interpreters Careers, a markets and jobs newsletter. For less than 17 cents a day, I will dive into the haystack for you.

62 TRAITS AND SKILLS REQUIRED BY TRANSLATION AGENCIES


Be a good writer in your target language.

• Be a native speaker of the language you translate into.

• Be a specialist in different fields: law, medicine, business, etc.

• Be a subject matter expert.

• Be able to work in a fast-paced environment.

• Be adept at using MS Office programs.

• Be at least 18 years old.

• Be authorized to work in the U.S.

• Be certified or accredited.

• Be committed to each project, no matter how small.

• Be culturally sensitive.

• Be familiar with Memsource, Wordfast, memoQ, SDL Trados.

• Be fluent in at least two languages.

• Be fluent in the language you are translating from.

• Be intellectually curious.

• Be intelligent.

• Be open minded.

• Be organized.

• Be passionate and knowledgeable about [subject matter].

• Be professional.

• Be punctual.

• Be relationship-oriented.

• Be responsive.

• Comply with the privacy guidelines of the agency or client.

• Create a website.

• Deliver your translation on time.

• Diversify.

• Establish competitive rates for the translations you do.

• Follow the agency’s process and rules.

• Follow the procedures required by the client.

• Get recommendations and references.

• Have a bachelor’s degree in a particular language.

• Have a copy of your certification to upload when requested.

• Have a Linkedin page.

• Have a quite high level of language skills.

• Have a resume ready.

• Have an M.A. in a language or in translation.

• Have CAT tool experience.

• Have experience or knowledge of technical industries.

• Have experience with terminology management.

• Have experience with translation memory technology.

• Have five years of experience.

• Have good computer skills.

• Have good typing skills, above-average typing speed.

• Have knowledge of marketing and sales.

• Have some business acumen.

• Have ten years of experience.

• Have tenacity.

• Have two years of experience.

• Have work samples to show prospective clients.

• Improve your research skills.

• Join online translator groups.

• Keep up to date in your specialization.

• Keep your work confidential.

• Know how to use CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools.

• Know how to use desktop publishing apps, Photoshop, etc.

• Learn to market yourself.

• Live in the country where your source language is spoken.

• Never stop learning.

• Pass language proficiency tests.

• Understand the cultures of the languages you translate.

• Work as an intern.

• Write a blog.

Am I Too Old To Interpret?

I am not 70 years old. I am 16 with 54 years of experience.”


Helen Alvarez was 80 years old when I first started interpreting. She was a veteran working interpreter who nonetheless was at the same professional development workshops I and other newbies attended. She was an inspiration to all who knew her.


All of us, if we are lucky, will grow old. When will we be considered too old to interpret or translate?


Ageism is a fact of life. Like racism, gender, religious affiliation, etc., ageism is against the law in these United States. Does it happen in our line of work?


This week I visited 12 translation agency websites. Would I find any clues as to their attitude towards older translators and interpreters?


If images speak louder than words, then it is obvious there is a bias in favor of the young. Photos in 10 of the 12 agencies were exclusively of young men and women. The message in the photos of two companies was that “we are not only young, but we party all the time.”


One of the largest agencies projected a reserved image, until it posted on their careers page a photo of several ladies holding each other by the hips doing a choo-choo train-like dance.


The agencies were more aware of race and sexual orientation issues. They included twice as many women as men in their photos, and always a non-white person.


Words, particularly when describing the sort of employees they seek, can also give us a clue as to age bias. I did not find “digital native,” a code word for young, in any agency. But I did see “tech savvy,” “clever and fast,” “comfortable using computers,” and “enjoys learning.”


We know that when an advertiser wants to sell us toothpaste, clothes, a car, or even a business machine made in Sweden (real ad), they will use images of young, beautiful, slender women or young, handsome, slender men.


But what are translation agencies selling us? Will clients not use their services if they saw photos of older translators and interpreters? Will freelancers not want to work for them if they saw photos of older colleagues?