Tag: Resources for translators

Dear readers,

The following post is a review of the second edition of Tradusa, an event for translators and interpreters in the healthcare industry, held in Brazil. I was not involved in it, but one of my readers has asked me to publish this review and help promote the event. If you like what you read, by all means support the event and make sure you are a part of its next edition.

Happy reading!

Karen

TRADUSA Round Two: More Than Skin and Bones

The second iteration of TRADUSA, Brazil’s event for translators and interpreters specialized in healthcare and medicine, was held at the Instituto Phorte in São Paulo on April 1-2, 2016. Fruit of the organizers’ arduous labor and an ever-increasing demand for quality language services in the health sector, this year’s participants enjoyed a balanced combination of hour-long presentations and hands-on workshops–a note-worthy improvement over TRADUSA’s speaker-heavy inaugural edition.

Right from Friday’s opening pitch, participants were offered their choice of a mini-course in neuroanatomy or various translation workshop options, allowing them to grab their bull of interest by the horns from the outset. In his neuroanatomy mini-course, Dr. Altiere A. Carvalho managed to get everyone’s neurotransmitters firing due to his engaging, participatory lecture style, accessible explanations, and plain good nature. Everyone left the workshop with a voluntary appreciation for the body’s involuntary intelligence.

Following a caloric refuelling in the company of new and old colleagues, a round of presentations kicked off with Val Ivonica’s plunge into the controversial topic of machine translation. Ivonica’s talk was practical, product-oriented and properly prudent, but the overarching take-home—embrace these tools, if for no other reason than for sheer productivity’s sake—was the most valuable reminder for a field in disruption.

Pharmacist and translator Beatriz Araújo guided her audience through the dense forest of Brazilian healthcare legislation, stopping to highlight those laws that affect which and how medical texts make their way into the hands of translators. Some of the material was also relevant for those of us from the interpreting world who would like to see limited Portuguese proficient patients access their constitutional right to healthcare—as guaranteed in article 197 of the 1988 constitution (thank you Beatriz!)—via hospital and clinic interpreting services.

Adriana Dominici offered more grist for the translator mill in her presentation about the translation of pharmaceutical package inserts. Though the presentation was tailored to the German-Portuguese combination, the larger message about differing publication formats and regulations among countries was relevant to any pharmaceuticals translator.

The day rounded out with a presentation from the Colectiva team, Cecilia Tsukamoto, Daniele Fonseca, Livia Cais and Suzana Gontijo
who reengaged any interpreters who may have been drifting off following the translation heavy stretch of speakers. Both warm and professional, the squad delineated a roadmap to the demanding world of medical conference interpreting. Though they responsibly reminded aspirants that the field is not one to be taken lightly, the overall message was non-exclusive and grounded: hard work over time can indeed build expertise. No silver bullets were nor could be peddled, but the veteran interpreters did offer a useful introduction, outlining the types of assignments one might encounter and preparation tips for the booth.

Day two’s format mirrored its predecessor: a workshop or mini-course in the morning followed by afternoon speakers (with plenty of breaks for coffee and snacks throughout the day, claro!). Your author attended Rosario Garcia’s workshop on Portuguese-English medical translation intended for translators with little to no experience in the specialty. Garcia proved to be very at home in the classroom, adeptly guiding students through a bit of theory and moving straight on to practical exercises, allowing for immediate experimentation and application of the information presented.

First up to bat in the afternoon round of presentations was conference circuit speaker Ana Julia Perrotti-Garcia with her presentation on medical terminology equivalency pitfalls. Though heavy on the lexical side, Perrotti-Garcia also took the time to revisit fundamental medical concepts—background knowledge valuable to newcomers and seasoned professionals alike.

William Jacob de Lima then exposed us, unprotected, to the evolution of radiology and just about every type of imaging process possible. Though our thyroid glands emerged unscathed, the deluge of isolated images did provoke a sort of vertigo among the uninitiated. Though Jacob de Lima could not be faulted for his completeness, a more detailed pathological contextualization of fewer slides would have been helpful for the layperson.

TRADUSA’s final speaker, Andresa Medeiros, shed light on an interpreting setting nascent in the Brazilian market but long ubiquitous in many other parts of the world: the so-called public service or community healthcare interpreting setting. Medeiros focused on the special considerations that must be taken when interpreting for immigrants, making apparent the jarring differences between this sort of public service interpreting work and that of its sister setting: conference interpreting.

Though arguably lacking the depth or vibrancy that will evolve in later editions, this second iteration of TRADUSA has proven that the event is right on track for future stardom. The conference is a valuable hub for an interpreting sub-specialty that merits and demands apt professionals. After all, the stakes are, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

http://www.tradusaencontro.com.br/

The author

For nearly a decade, Laura Vaughn Holcomb has been the conveyor of intimacies passed between embattled cancer patients and their oncologists, transplant candidates and their care team, and midwives and new mothers. Healthcare interpreter by heart and conference interpreter by hat, in the booth Laura specializes in coffee and cacao.

Laura co-developed and currently runs the Glendon College Virtual Healthcare Interpreting Practicum (VHIP), an online internship program for advanced students preparing to enter the healthcare market. She also trains conference interpreting students for the fully online, Brazil-based Interpret2B. Laura holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College in Toronto. More at: LauraHolcomb.com

 

As freelancers, we take pride in managing our own time, being our own boss, and theoretically being able to choose our jobs and clients. However, when it gets down to it, being your own boss also means being your own IT department, being your own human resources department, your own accounts department, and so on. The tricky part is, we are only paid for the translation work, all the other jobs that we carry out are either unpaid, or you have to factor that time into your translation rate.

Even if you are a “boutique” translator, who charges a hefty fee for your services, factoring the cost of all the hours that you put into invoicing, learning how to use translation resources, figuring out IT problems, chasing payments, prospecting clients, etc. into your per hour or per word rate, would likely make you prohibitively expensive. Hence, there are two options, one is outsourcing some or all of these tasks, and the other is reducing the amount of time that you spend on each of these tasks.

In either case, you can benefit from standardizing some of your processes to ensure that you or the person who will perform a service for you is able to perform tasks quickly and keep appropriate records. If you think of yourself as a company, you may take some initial time (start-up) time to create certain documents and tools, but these will pay off later in time saved that you can use to earn money from translating or relax and enjoy the money that you have earned.

If you choose to outsource all of your non translation-related tasks, you need to find affordable services and determine how much of your earnings you are prepared to spend on “business costs”. The advantages of outsourcing services include freeing up brain space for translation, freeing up time, and not having to actually spend time doing things that you dislike versus translating, which you love. The disadvantages are primarily the cost of outsourcing, giving up some of your control over important aspects of your business and having more people to manage, which means that you will also have to manage their deadlines, deliverables, etc.

I particularly prefer a combination outsourcing and doing it myself. There are tasks, such as filing tax returns, which can be outsourced for a relatively low cost. Other tasks, such as your marketing, are potentially more effectively done by you. More importantly, if you chose to become a freelancer, you probably believe that you work well independently and are used to “figuring things out” for yourself. Hence, you probably do not think that you need to spend money on many of these tasks. Well, I believe that too, and in the very least, if you do spend some money, you should really only spend where necessary.

As freelancers, we do not operate as companies, and when we “hire” someone, we usually pay another freelancer on an hourly basis as well. Hence, it is important that the other freelancer is able to hit the ground running and do as much as possible for you in the hours that you are hiring them.

For example, if you hire someone to do your client prospecting for you, he or she will be contacting potential clients on your behalf. This is obviously great, provided that their approach truly represents how you want to portray yourself, and how good they are at recordkeeping. Let us say that you hire a sales person and give them a list of potential clients to contact, you tell them to create a template for initial communications through e-mails and letters, and send them off on their trail. Two or three months down the line, you may be a bit short on cash and decide that you do not need their services right now, so you fire them. How do you know who they contacted and what their responses were? How do you know who you need to follow up on? In a few months, when you decide to hire a new sales person, how will they know where to start?

In this example, you should have provided or had the first sales person create a brief on what to put in their communications, a list of contacts, a spreadsheet to track who had been contacted, and a results-tracker. Furthermore, you should have arranged periodic monitoring of their work to make sure that they were using your tools appropriately and that they were having some success. This would have meant spending a few hours initially, either creating the materials and/or briefing the sales person (paid hours). After this initial time, you would have to meet with the sales person for 1-2 hours per month to keep track of their progress and use of your materials.

 I know that not many translators will go as far as hiring a sales person, but this concept of having an outline of what you need from a task, templates to streamline accomplishing the task and a results-tracker applies to all of your potential processes, from accounting, to sales, to collections.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I am going to share some of my standardized practices with you. These are quick and simple processes that you can apply to ensure that you are on top of your finances, your marketing, your clients and your rates. The main concept behind all of them is setting out what you want from your tasks, creating as many templates as possible in advance and devising means to keep track of your results.

If you spend some time doing this for all your processes, and apply your processes consistently, not only will you be much quicker at doing them, but also if you ever choose to outsource, the person who takes over from you will be able to do so quickly and with little training.

Stay tuned and let me know your thoughts! Happy translating!

As freelancers, we take pride in managing our own time, being our own boss, and theoretically being able to choose our jobs and clients. However, when it gets down to it, being your own boss also means being your own IT department, being your own human resources department, your own accounts department, and so on. The tricky part is, we are only paid for the translation work, all the other jobs that we carry out are either unpaid, or you have to factor that time into your translation rate.

Even if you are a “boutique” translator, who charges a hefty fee for your services, factoring the cost of all the hours that you put into invoicing, learning how to use translation resources, figuring out IT problems, chasing payments, prospecting clients, etc. into your per hour or per word rate, would likely make you prohibitively expensive. Hence, there are two options, one is outsourcing some or all of these tasks, and the other is reducing the amount of time that you spend on each of these tasks.

In either case, you can benefit from standardizing some of your processes to ensure that you or the person who will perform a service for you is able to perform tasks quickly and keep appropriate records. If you think of yourself as a company, you may take some initial time (start-up) to create certain documents and tools, but this will pay off later in time saved that you can use to earn money from translating or relax and enjoy the money that you have earned.

If you choose to outsource all of your non translation-related tasks, you need to find affordable services and determine how much of your earnings you are prepared to spend on “business costs”. The advantages of outsourcing services include freeing up brain space for translation, freeing up time, and not having to actually spend time doing things that you dislike versus translating, which you love. The disadvantages are primarily the cost of outsourcing, giving up some of your control over important aspects of your business and having more people to manage, which means that you will also have to manage their deadlines, deliverables, etc.

I particularly prefer a combination of outsourcing and doing it myself. There are tasks, such as filing tax returns, which can be outsourced for a relatively low cost. Other tasks, such as your marketing, are potentially more effectively done by you. More importantly, if you chose to become a freelancer, you probably believe that you work well independently and are used to “figuring things out” for yourself. Hence, you probably do not think that you need to spend money on many of these tasks. Well, I believe that too, and in the very least, if you do spend some money, you should really only spend where necessary.

As freelancers, we do not operate as companies, and when we “hire” someone, we usually pay another freelancer on an hourly basis as well. Hence, it is important that the other freelancer is able to hit the ground running and do as much as possible for you in the hours that you are hiring them.

For example, if you hire someone to do your client prospecting for you, he or she will be contacting potential clients on your behalf. This is obviously great, provided that their approach truly represents how you want to portray yourself, and how good they are at recordkeeping. Let us say that you hire a sales person and give them a list of potential clients to contact, you tell them to create a template for initial communications through e-mails and letters, and send them off on their trail. Two or three months down the line, you may be a bit short on cash and decide that you do not need their services right now, so you fire them. How do you know who they contacted and what their responses were? How do you know who you need to follow up on? In a few months, when you decide to hire a new sales person, how will they know where to start?

In this example, you should have provided or had the first sales person create a brief on what to put in their communications, a list of contacts, a spreadsheet to track who had been contacted, and a results-tracker. Furthermore, you should have arranged periodic monitoring of their work to make sure that they were using your tools appropriately and that they were having some success. This would have meant spending a few hours initially, either creating the materials and/or briefing the sales person (paid hours). After this initial time, you would have had to meet with the sales person for 1-2 hours per month to keep track of their progress and use of your materials.

 I know that not many translators will go as far as hiring a sales person, but this concept of having an outline of what you need from a task, templates to streamline accomplishing the task and a results-tracker applies to all of your potential processes, from accounting, to sales, to collections.

Whether your intent is to hire someone to do a job for you, or to do it yourself. You will benefit from creating materials in advance. Such materials should always include your goals and how you will measure your results, as well as, templates to streamline that particular task.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I am going to share some of my standardized practices with you. These are quick and simple processes that you can apply to ensure that you are on top of your finances, your marketing, your clients and your rates. The main concept behind all of them is setting out what you want from your tasks, creating as many templates as possible in advance and devising means to keep track of your results.

If you spend some time doing this for all your processes, and apply your processes consistently, not only will you be much quicker at doing them, but also if you ever choose to outsource, the person who takes over from you will be able to do so quickly and with little training.

Stay tuned and let me know your thoughts! Happy translating!

There are hundreds of great resources for medical translators online for different language pairs and different areas of specialization; I have compiled a few of those under my posts Glossaries and Dictionaries. In this post, I am sharing 5 resources that are useful for medical translators when researching. These links will help you understand what the terms and conditions that you are translating about mean and from there you can make decisions about how to translate them using your glossaries and dictionaries.

  • Medilexicon: This dictionary also features in my dictionaries post. I love it particularly for acronym search in clinical trial and patent translations. It is comprehensive and extremely useful when translating from English. It also contains a dictionary with definitions, which is useful, but the main resource I use is the abbreviations search.
  • Pubmed: This is a database of scientific articles from virtually all relevant international journals. When I worked as a medical researcher a few years back, this was the most popular search engine for scientific references. I believe it is still one of the most used by scientists worldwide and it is great because it contains articles from reputable journals. Hence, you have access to higher-level information. The only drawback of this website is that if you are not subscribed, you only have access to the abstracts of most articles. In my experience, the information I need is usually in the abstracts and when it is not, I can usually find some clues there that will guide further research.
  • ScienceDaily: I like this website because you can search for summaries of research in different topics. I find it particularly useful when the information I need is not clear from the abstracts on PubMed. I usually use the clues from PubMed as search topics on Science Daily to get better clarification on the terminology that I am translating.
  • Medline: The US national library of medicine. This is also a great resource for research. It is important that medical translators have a thorough understanding of the topics they are translating about before they even begin translating. Hence, having links for good, sound information on a variety of medical topics in your bookmarks bar is essential. This is definitely one such resource.
  • LILACS: LILACS is the most important and comprehensive index of scientific and technical literature of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is particularly useful for translators into and from Latin American languages and it gives access to full articles from Latin American Journals. It is also useful for translators of other languages doing research in English as most of the articles are in English, but Latin American translators are able to find the references and then search for the articles in their respective languages. Hence, I find it very handy when trying to decide how to translate a particular term.

When researching for a medical translation, I find that we often need to be creative. For example, sometimes I see a term in a source text, I cannot find it in my glossaries and dictionaries and I am not sure how to translate it. In some cases, from experience, I can make an educated guess about how that term might be translated into Brazilian Portuguese. What I do from there is try to determine whether my guess is actually a term that is used in Brazilian medical language, so I will search for it on LILACS, for example. Sometimes, within seconds I find several references to that term being used in the same context in Brazilian journals, which means problem solved.

However, other times I cannot find it, so I need to broaden my search, I need to understand in detail what the English term means, for which I use PubMed, Medline, Science Daily and even Medilexicon. Once I have a good understanding of what the term means, I can google related terms in PTBR and try to find a term being used in the same context in Brazilian Portuguese. Sometimes, Google image search can be extremely useful in helping me determine whether the term I found and the source term mean the same thing, because if I search both terms and find similar images, then I know that I am on the right track. Please note that Google is never the final determinant of how I am going to translate a term, because there is a lot of unreliable information there. Hence, even if I find the term in PTBR on Google, I then go back to my articles, perhaps through LILACS, and try to find that term being used in the same context.

Between these references, the dictionaries and glossaries that I have shared in previous posts, and my own dictionaries and glossaries, created over years of medical translations, I can combine and cross-reference information to translate virtually any medical term. This may sound like a lengthy process, but with experience, you learn a lot of terminology and the more you work with a particular topic the fewer terms you need to research and the better your educated guesses. My recommendation for translators beginning in the medical field is to read a lot in your working languages, because the better your understanding of medical language, the easier for you to make educated guesses. Furthermore, take the time to create your own glossaries and dictionaries. Whenever you are translating, just keep an excel spreadsheet open and include all the terms you research. This is invaluable, because you will often come across the same term again and you will wish you remembered how you translated it last time!

Good luck and please share if you have any other references that you find particularly useful.

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This week I was asked by a fellow translator if I think she should become a paid member of one of these job boards online, such as Proz and Translator’s café. In this post, I discuss my experience and why I think it depends on your strategy.

I have been an unpaid member of ProZ for over 6 years, and I have profiles created in most of the major job boards for translators online. I have already discussed why I think you should take the time to create a profile in a previous post. In short, these websites’ ratings improve your visibility, because it is easier than boosting your own website’s ratings or even creating one to begin one.

Creating hundreds of profiles is a time-consuming task, but I think it is worth it. There is a cheat though: I actually hired a virtual assistant, provided her with copy of the general text, my CV information, login and password to be used and she created the accounts for me. Now, I have a spreadsheet, where I have all the websites where I have profiles, login and password, and latest updates. Hence, it is easy for me to track where my information is and update it every so often (for which I also use my virtual assistant).

I can safely say that I have had potential clients contact me at one point or another through most of these websites, but still I would not recommend them as a marketing strategy. These profiles are nice to have, but do not expect them to generate a lot of spontaneous business for you, most of your business will come from active marketing. You can read some of my tips on that as well here and here.

However, I digress…these are unpaid profiles, but what about paid membership? Is it worth it?

Over one year ago, I wondered that myself, and after being a member of ProZ for over five years, I decided to make the investment and pay for a year of membership. I read several testimonials by other translators on the ProZ website saying that they got the return on their investment, so my goal was to at least get my money back in jobs won.

Hence, I bid for all suitable projects in my language pair, which I had not been doing as a free member, and made an effort to tailor all my bids to the job offers. As a result, I won quite a few jobs in my first six months of membership, and made some contacts that did not award me the particular job I bid for, but came back to me later for other jobs. The bottom line is that, like the testimonials that I read, I did get my money back.

The fact that I had paid, made me more diligent in bidding and tailoring my bids, which could have accounted for the positive results. Nonetheless, I did find that, as a member, I was allowed to bid first, so my bids were noticed more often than when I bid as a free member. This is the true value of the paid membership. I believe that a job poster will not read more than 10-20 bids, so by the time you bid as a free member, they will potentially have already selected their provider.

Another interesting aspect of the membership was having access to the Blue Board, which is a board where translators rate job posters. I could check whether a poster paid on time, was serious and ethical, etc. This obviously made me feel a lot more confident when accepting jobs.

Bottom line is that you should definitely pay for membership, at least with ProZ, right? Well, I have not renewed my membership this year.

Despite the “success”, the jobs posted there usually offered lower rates than I expect to earn. The “clients” on the ProZ website are not my target market, because I target a more specialist type of agency and end client, who usually have longer selection processes and testing, so they will rarely post a job on a job board. My clients usually pre-emptively recruit and create lists of approved suppliers so that they can easily outsource jobs to trusted partners.

Hence, I found that the time I spent tailoring bids and looking for suitable projects was better spent sending my CV and marketing information to potential clients in my target segment. I spent the last six months of my membership with ProZ sending CVs and marketing information, and taking tests. The result was that I got fewer responses and fewer replies, but the companies that became my clients in that period paid me at least three times more than my Proz clients did. In other words, in the second half of my membership year, I was able to earn a lot more, doing what I specialize in.

The lesson I learned is that both of these approaches are valid ways of finding clients and winning jobs. However, your choice of one or the other depends on your strategy. In fact, you do not even have to choose, you could do both and maximize your earnings by choosing the highest paying jobs by order of request. I find that doing both takes more than my allotted marketing time and I need to translate as well, so it is not feasible in my business, but it all depends on your demand.

A paid membership is certainly something to consider when you are going through a low demand period or building your business. When you reach a more stable level, you can then make a choice about whether this is helping you get to your target market or consuming more time than it is worth.

My main take away from this experience was that we should be open to trying new approaches and assessing them pragmatically. Sometimes, a return on investment does not make an approach attractive in the long term. As translators, we need to think as business owners and make these decisions. However, we will only be able to focus on the best approach for us, once we have tried a few different strategies and tailored our choices to our business.

Now over to you, have you had any experience with paid memberships in other job boards? How did it go?

 

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Machine translations (MT) is a hot topic now. I have seen and participated in several discussions in online translators’ forums on the topic recently. Translators and the industry as a whole are somewhat divided.

Many translators fear that the quality of machine translations is inferior to that of human translations and will ultimately drive down the overall quality and prices across the industry. Translation agencies feel increasing pressure to use machine translations to meet deadlines and constant budgetary constraints. Clients, who are aware of what machine translations are, feel that if MTs are being used in their projects without their knowledge, they are being ripped off. On the other hand, if machine translations are not being used at all, they are missing out on cost savings and faster turnaround times.

Machine translation is different from simply using a translation memory tool. Professional translators have been using computer-assisted translation tools (CAT tools) for decades to help them increase consistency and performance. The fundamental difference between the two is that in MT, a software will actually perform the translation and a human reviewer will then go over the translation editing it to ensure it is accurate and of good quality; this process is called post-editing of machine translation (PEMT). In human translations aided by CAT tools – which is the current norm across the industry -, memories and glossaries are created and available as reference to the translator. A software interface allows the translator to view the source document, similar segments already translated in the translation memory and other reference materials at the same time, while he/she types in translations for each segment. Despite all this “help”, ultimately, the translator carries out the actual translation of each segment of the source text. In both cases, each segment translated is stored in a translation memory (TM) and, in future translations, if the segment reappears, it is automatically input into the file being translated.

Hence, in the first process, there are usually two people involved, a post-editor and a proofreader, who will have the final responsibility for ensuring the quality of the translation. In the second process, there will be 2-3 people involved as well, the translator, a reviewer and sometimes a proofreader to ensure the quality of the translation.

Both of these processes sound great in theory. Ultimately, the translation will be reviewed and read by at least two qualified people, who will then ensure that the quality of the final product is the highest possible.

However, it is not that simple. Translation agencies are under a lot of pressure from clients to reduce prices. Hence, what happens is that these translation memories are used to “reduce the work” and the “cost” of the human assets involved. Translation agencies sometimes have grids for how much they pay for memory matches, for example, if there is a 100% match to a segment in a translation memory, the translation agency will not pay the translator for that segment. Therefore, the translator is not to touch that segment, even if its style, tone of voice, etc. are different from the rest of the translation, or worse, even if there are errors. If there is an 80-95% similarity between a new segment and a segment already in the memory, the translator may be paid 30% or 40% of his/her usual rate, etc. In other words, the translator will still have to read and edit that segment, but will not be paid in full for that service.

When CAT Tools and machine translations first came out, most clients were completely unaware of this, so often they would pay the full rate for all segments in a file, while translation agencies would profit from underpaying their translators. As clients caught on to this, they began pressuring translation agencies to reduce prices. This means that many translation agencies passed this pressure on to their translators, who were paid even less. No wonder translators are sceptical of new computer-assisted technologies!

Good translators eventually decided not accept this and would refuse to work with a grid or even with CAT tools. In response, translation agencies were forced to hire “cheaper” translator and the quality of translations across the industry spiralled down.

This is still an issue today, the middle and bottom of the translation industry are full of translators who work for a very low rate editing machine translations or translating 10-20% of a document without even looking at the rest to ensure consistency.

For the reasons above, I had been very sceptical of MT until recently. I only decided to try it, because I was asked by a client, happened to have the time and was curious about it. I completed three large projects for the same client, i.e. same terminology, same glossary, same style guide, etc. The first issue was that my client, a translation agency, was doing this at the request of their end client and not even they understood exactly how the rates were calculated.  In other words, their clients had complete control over what they would charge and, hence, of what I would get paid (which was much less than my usual rate).

After my first project, I was actually excited about it. I did complete several words in a very short space of time. Therefore, I thought, maybe, I would eventually be able to earn as much per hour as I earn regularly. Hence, the lower rate would not be an issue.

It felt a bit like using a CAT tool, only all non-100% matches were like 70-90% matches and my job was to go over them editing. Now, 100% match segments all came locked, which means I could not amend them even if I did spot a mistake.

Nonetheless, there was still the quality issue. As translators are not paid for 100% matches, the client has to assume that we will not even read those. Therefore, they have to provide an extensive style guide and glossary to ensure that terms are translated consistently and the overall style of the translation is somewhat preserved. However, learning an extensive style guide takes time and even if you are really careful, when you are earning more than 50% less than you normally would for a job, you do not want to double the time it will take you to do that job by going over and over the style guide and glossary.

My first project was a short one, so it was relatively easy to ensure the quality of the segments I translated. It is very important to note here that I found several errors in the 100% matches, but I was told by my client (the translation agency) to simply ignore those. No one was getting paid for those so they were to remain unchanged.

In my next two projects, which were very large, I found myself under a lot of pressure and very confused! For example, I was supposed to be strictly faithful to the glossary, but sometimes I would be translating a segment and the term in the glossary would be different from how the same term had been translated in the 100% match segment just above. If I followed the glossary, as instructed, the text would be inconsistent. Why would you have two words to designate the same part of a machine in subsequent paragraphs? It is confusing!

In addition, there was the extensive style guide to follow, which I did not have time to learn fully, because I was supposed to turn the translation around quickly – after all, it had already been done by the machine, right? Well, the result and bitter lesson from this experienced was that these projects failed the “quality” evaluation during the proofreading stage due to consistency issues with glossary and style guide. I had not failed a quality assessment in at least 10 years! As a result, I had to amend and amend the translations until they were completely consistent with the glossary and style guide, which ultimately took me a lot longer than if I had translated the project for my full rate as I usually do. In other words, I lost money.

It was a bitter lesson, because having been in this industry for so long, I should have known that I could not have learned such a lengthy style guide so quickly, and should have factored this into my price and deadline. However, it has taught me a few things about machine translations.

Now, when I see articles like the one I read today, praising the “high quality, speed and cost savings of machine translations”.  I take them with a pinch of salt.

My recent experience has not made me against machine translations. I do believe that there is value in them, because they can indeed speed up the process, but it has made me very aware that the way they are being done now, purely as a money saving exercise, is very detrimental to the overall quality of translations.

Ideally, for a machine translation to be of really good quality, the PEMT should review the entire text, not just non-100% matches. The reason for that is that a full revision will ensure that mistakes in previous translations are not perpetuated, and the tone of voice, style and terminology of the translation are consistent. Furthermore, the proofreader should be someone highly experienced with the style guide and glossary. Clients should treasure these professionals and the time investment they had to put into learning these style guide and glossaries, because they are the main quality element of the translation. These professionals should be paid more, not less, because they are “experts”.

The bottom line is that machine translations are excellent tools, like CAT tools, but they do not stand alone. Languages are living things that change and adapt, and no software today is able to adjust and account for that. It takes an experienced human eye to turn a machine translation into a good translation. The whole industry should be aware of this and properly reward these professionals, value their expertise and set procedures in place that allow them to do their job to the best of their ability. Only then will machine translations be “high quality, speedier and less expensive”.

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Determining your rates is often a common and controversial issue among translators. The answer that I will provide today is by no means the only one. You may come up with other pricing strategies that work for you, your target market and current clientele. I hope this provides a starting point, based upon which you can devise your own strategy.

Firstly, your rate must:

  • Be competitive – in theory, you can charge whatever you want, but that will only work if people pay what you are asking for. Most clients will get quotes from more than one translator or service, so if you are too far off the mark they will either think that you are not professional enough (hence why your rate is so low) or that you are out of touch with the market (hence why your rate is so high). That does not mean that you cannot be the cheapest or the most expensive translator that money can hire; it just means that your rate should show that you are aware of what the market pays for your service and your pricing strategy is deliberate. Hence, you are either “in the middle” or “just above” or “just below” the going rate.
  •  Make a statement – our CV is not our only means of making a statement about our work. What and how we charge for our services also affect how we are viewed by prospect clients. Companies choose what strategy is more in line with their value proposition and adjust their pricing strategy based on that. For example, a company may set its prices low and dare you to find a cheaper provider. This shows you that they are aware of what the going rate is for similar products, but deliberately want to be the cheapest and attract as many customers as possible. We all know what to expect from this company, as the popular saying goes: “You get what you pay for.” Sometimes, the lowest price is exactly what you want and need; we are not always looking for the highest quality. For example, you may have just received a letter from your boyfriend in Spain. The letter is in Spanish, but you do not speak Spanish. Hence, you need a translation service. You will not be looking for the highest quality translation that money can buy, you will probably want speed (because you cannot wait to know what he said) and to get the general idea for the lowest price, because you cannot invest lots of money on reading letters from your boyfriend. Sometimes quality is not the top concern, i.e. speed and budget are more important and a low pricing strategy may be more appealing to this customer.

Conversely, at the high-end market, companies will set their prices above the going rate to convey to you that their product is more expensive because it is the best available. As a translator, your pricing strategy can do that too, you may set your price to reflect the quality of the services you provide, your experience, credentials, specialization, etc. It is as if you are trying to convey that you are the “Ferrari” equivalent in translation. If you choose this strategy, remember that not everyone can afford a Ferrari, not matter how much they want it, so your services will not be accessible to most clients.

Hence, your pricing strategy may say – “I am willing to translate for a lower fee and this means that I am interested in volume” – or it may say – “I am a high-quality and experienced professional, who charges according to my credentials”. On both ends of the scale, the client will know exactly what to expect. However, you do not need to pick an end of the scale. If your rates are in the middle, you convey the message that you are in line with your competition, i.e. that you are not necessarily better or worse based on your pricing, which means you’ll need to convey your competitive advantage in some other way. This makes you more accessible to the average customer, but it means more competition because you will need to find other ways of standing out among the many providers within the same rate range.

  •  Be flexible (to an extent) – You do not need to charge the top and bottom of the scale and every amount in between. You need to have your preferred rate (ideal rate), your acceptable rate (a rate that you would consider if the job were not too specialized, etc.) and your unacceptable rate (you simply do not work for that). Corinne McKay has an interesting system for that with a green, yellow and red zone. According to her, if it were within your capabilities, you would almost never turn down work in your green zone. You would never take work in your red zone and would consider work in your yellow zone depending on your availability, the level of difficulty, etc.

 All very well, so how do you determine your rates?

Initially, you need to make some decisions about:

–          What statement you want your rates to make (high-end, low-end or on a par with competition);

–          How flexible you can be (do I need to go into my yellow zone at all? If so, what factors would make me consider doing that, e.g. availability, how interesting a project is, etc.);

–          Who your target market is (medical industry, translation agencies, law firms, etc.);

–          What types of clients you will want to attract (companies or individuals? Translation agencies, direct clients or both?); and, more importantly,

–          How much do you need and want to earn. (Ideally, you would earn what you want, and that is, ultimately, what you will aim for, but it is important to know how much you need to earn to keep your business feasible, because this will affect all your other decisions about pricing).

Next, you will need to determine what the market charges for the services that you provide. I have a very simple strategy for that.

I have a list of the translation agencies who operate in my industry (medical) in the countries were I aim to work. I have rated them based on how close to my value proposition they are. For example, I strive to provide the highest quality translations; I aim for the high-end of the market, etc. In other words, specialist medical translation agencies are my target for determining what the market is charging.

Then I hire a virtual assistant (they can be very cheap online) for a few hours, every year or two, and get my VA to call all of these agencies to get quotes. It is important for me that the VA gets quotes on all of the services that I provide, e.g. translation, revision, proofreading, etc.  I am very specific about what the VA needs to find out, because sometimes an agency will provide a quote that will include revision, proofreading, DTP, etc. If I am not offering these services in a bundle, that rate is useless to me unless it is broken down.

I usually provide my VA with a short medical document to submit to these agencies, so that she can act exactly as I client would trying to get quotes and choose a provider for their job.

My reasoning here is that I do not have the resources to pay for a market research. However, large translation agencies do, so I can use their rates as benchmark for my own.

I am aware that I do not compete with large translation agencies, because there are certain additional services that they can provide which I do not. Hence, I know that my rates need to be lower than theirs are (that is one of my competitive advantages in relation to translation agencies).

By averaging these rates out (per currency), I have a maximum benchmark, based upon which I can set my prices for translation agencies and direct clients. Hence, what I usually do is go 20-30% lower for direct clients and 50% lower for agencies (because they will need to embed their costs and profits, so they will not pay me 60-70% of their final rate to direct clients). Then I try these rates out, by offering them to new prospect customers and seeing what responses I get.

If it is really easy and everybody accepts my rate readily, this could mean that I am bang on average. So, in 2-3 months I try raising the rates slightly to determine whether the market will take it.

If it is really hard to get any clients and I am sensing that I am too expensive, after 1-2 months I lower the rates slightly (may through offers and temporary discounts) and see if I get more interest.

I do not change my rates often for regular clients, so all my trials with new rates are carried out with prospect clients. I believe this is important, because no one wants to work on a regular basis with a provider that keeps changing rates.

I am sure that there are many other approaches to this. I have developed this one over 13 years working as a translator, after a lot of trial and error, and it has been the most effective way for me. This article is too long already, so I will not go into details of having different rates for different target markets, etc. but do bear that in mind when you determine your rates.

Now over to you, do you have a better strategy? How do you determine your rates?

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A fellow translator has recently asked me a similar question. He is an experienced translator, but has always worked for the same company/few companies and now wants to break on his own.

First, a disclaimer – I have never done that. I have never held an in-house position. It took me a day working in-house for a translation agency to decide that it was not for me. However, I have transitioned from a full-time job as a medical researcher into freelancing and I believe I may have some useful advice for my fellow translator.
The following tips assume that the reader is already a translator. I am not going into details of qualifications you should/could get, experience, etc. I am assuming you are ready to go, as this is a vast topic that would require several other posts!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but includes some of the steps that I believe to be key to breaking into the translation industry. I will elaborate on some of these topics in future posts, but this may give you a general overview of what you need to do.

1. Prepare an appealing CV, and then create several versions of it. Preparing your CV may be the most important thing that you will do when setting up as a freelancer. It will require you to think about what your skills are, what your target and potential clients could be and ultimately how you are going to approach them. If you choose to approach translation agencies, they will always require a CV. A CV for translation agencies is quite standard in format, except that you do not need to provide your home address in your first contact, as if you were applying for a job. It is worth having at least two versions of this CV. One version you will send to generalist agencies – i.e. agencies that provide translations in any topic. The other CV should target niche agencies, i.e. agencies that specialize in your specialist areas, e.g. medical, legal, marketing, etc.

Then you should have a CV for your direct clients. Make sure you prepare a version of this CV for each type of client that you are going to target, e.g. medical device manufacturers, market research agencies, etc. This CV does not need to be in your standard CV format; it is a marketing tool and if you are going to send it to hundreds of potential clients, you don’t want your personal details spread all over the internet. Furthermore, few potential direct clients will care about where you went to school, etc. unless this is relevant to your specialism. Hence, although you will call it a CV, it should be more like a brochure, highlighting your relevant skills for a particular market.

2. Sing-up to translator job-boards. There are many websites (I mean hundreds) where people can find and hire freelancers, as well as websites specifically for translators. Some of these websites include Freelancer.com, People per hour (for freelancers in general), and ProZ and Translator’s cafe (for translators). Sign-up for as many as you can, create profiles in all of them (make sure you are consistent). You do not need to pay for membership in all of them (not even most!); the idea is to have your profile there. The better ranked these websites are in search engines the more they will help boosting your profile; this is easier than boosting your own website ranking (and you may not have one of those yet!).

Make sure you sign-up for their job notifications.

3. Bid for as many projects as you can. Some of these websites let you bid on projects free, while others require membership. Bid for all projects that suit your skills and are free initially. Over time, based on the notifications you receive, you will figure out which paid websites seem to have the most jobs that you would be interested in bidding for, and then you may pay for membership in those particular websites. Even if you do not get many bids accepted initially, or at all, use this as a tool to learn as much as you can about what skills you have, pricing, wording in your bids, etc. that are getting attention. Test different approaches, wordings to your bids, pricing, etc.

4. Figure out your price. Call agencies and ask for quotes, join translator forums that discuss this, read blogs for translators (there is a lot of good advice out there) and find out what other translators are charging. This is key, because you want to have a competitive price, but also set up a benchmark. You do not want to start by breaking into a slice of the market where you do not want to be, e.g. very low paying agencies.

5. Activate your network. Tell everybody you know about what you are doing now, and then remind them gently. Some of my first and best jobs came from friends’ and former colleagues’ recommendations. Initial marketing efforts like mailing and bidding do not necessarily convert into jobs immediately. You need to persevere with those, because they will eventually work. However, the quickest way to get a translation job is through recommendations.
Do not make the mistake of only letting the people who you think might have some connections with your industry know. Let everybody know! Send out an e-mail, call your closest friends, discuss what you are doing with your family, etc. We never know what people are talking about and who they are meeting; I have had some really good leads come from people who knew in passing what I did, but happened to be asked for a translator and could only think of me. In addition, social media is a good way of reminding people, because if you are posting often, your acquaintances often see your face there, and even if they do not engage with you all the time, they are reminded that you exist and work with translations. That is all it takes when an opportunity arises!

6. Create your image. This is worth spending time on. First, you need to define what channels you will use, how you want to be perceived and how much you can/are willing to invest now, in a year, in five years, etc. When I first started, I was quite bold and quit my job before I actually had enough translation demand. This meant that I had little money to invest and had to be very careful. Hence, I could not afford a professionally designed website, so I signed-up for a web host that had one of those website builders and built my own website. Admittedly, it was not my best website and now I have a much more professional image, but it was coherent with my profiles and had the information that I needed people to know.

I worked very hard on the free tools that I had, such as my LinkedIn profile and my ProZ profile, which I would sometimes use as my “websites”. It does not matter how many channels you choose or can afford to use. Of course having a website, your own domain name, a professional signature and e-mail, a logo, etc. all contribute to conveying your professional image. However, ultimately it will be your coherence and the quality and timeliness of your work that will determine your success. No amount of marketing will make you a good translator, so put more of your effort into that. Do be careful though, make well thought through decisions about how you want to portray yourself, because it will be easy to “upgrade” your image as you progress, but not so easy to change it.

7. Find your target companies online and approach them. I have written a couple of posts on some marketing strategies for translations, including mailing and other tools. You may learn more about them in my posts and through several other bloggers, but I do recommend you refrain from doing this until you have created your image, profile, and decided on your pricing, because you may not have a second chance to make a good impression with a potentially really good client.

These are only 7 tips. As I said at the beginning of this post, there are many other things that you can do, such as joining professional bodies, etc. I will write more on this topic, but if you start working on these now, I am sure they will keep you busy! What else can beginner translators do?

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As a former medical researcher and senior medical translator, I am often hired as a reviewer to ensure that translations are medically accurate, complete and that their tone is adequate to the target audience (usually doctors and researchers or patients).

Having reviewed millions of words and translated millions more myself, I have identified 5 long-term tips that all medical translators could use to improve the quality of their translations.

1. Be curious. This is not the first tip by chance; it is one of the most important attributes of a medical translator. You must be curious, both when translating and not. When you are translating a piece about a specific topic, you should not only search for the words that you do not know, but you should seek to understand the topic thoroughly. Naturally, it is impractical to read all the literature available about a topic in one go, you would never finish any translation job, but it is easy enough to find summaries of diseases and cellular mechanisms online that can really help you when you convert your source piece to a different language. Most of the mistakes I find when reviewing medical translations are not major terms that have been mistranslated, but mistranslation of sentence structures due to a clear lack of understanding by the translator of a drug or disease mechanism. These types of mistakes seem small, but they often render the translated sentence wrong, and you may proofread as many times as you like, if your understanding of the process doesn’t change, you will never detect that error.

2. Read extensively. In the same way that reading promotes better writing in general, reading medical texts promotes better medical writing. Therefore, you should seek to read as much as you can in all your working languages, this will not only expand your vocabulary, but will also give you a better grasp of the tone and level of formality of medical texts in different languages and for different audiences. A medical translator must be discerning and know how to communicate with different stakeholders in the health system, such as patients, physicians, researchers, hospital administrators, as well as knowing the unwritten codes of medical writing for that particular language. The only way that you will acquire these skills is by reading everything medical in your source and target languages.

3. Use glossaries. I have talked about the role of glossaries and dictionaries in a different post and provided lists of dictionaries and glossaries that include medical ones, but as a medical translator you should also seek to create your own glossaries. Whenever you work on a particular topic, make sure you open an excel spreadsheet and insert every term that you research there. If you are doing your extensive reading (tip 2) and come across and unknown term, research it and add it to your glossary. Whenever you receive client feedback on terminology, update your glossaries. Your personal glossaries are invaluable assets, which you will learn to rely on increasingly as your glossaries get better and you become more specialized.

4. Build a network of experts and peers. You will be stuck at some point or another when translating medical texts, particularly when translating in an unfamiliar field. In such cases, you will be grateful for not having to rely solely on your research skills and being able to contact others who may know more about a particular topic than you. Your network should include physicians, researchers and other medical translators with whom you are able to discuss terminology.

5. Focus on what interests you. We all have medical topics of particular interest to us, be it because we have/have had a particular disease, someone we know has a condition, we are touched by an emotional appeal, there is a certain genetic disease that runs in the family, we are having a baby, we have a background in a particular field, etc. Unlike other areas of translation, it is almost impossible not to have some medical topic that we can relate to. When you identify that topic that is particularly close to your heart, you will want to read about it anyway, even when you are not working. Hence, make sure you learn as much as you can about it, and then advertise it as your specialism(s).  For example, in my case, two topics are of particular interest to me, the first is human reproduction. My father is a physician, a reproduction specialist, I was a medical researcher in the field of reproductive medicine and have not only always heard and read about the topic, but also have an extensive network of people who can help me and share information with me. Hence, I make it a point to learn as much as I can about anything related to human reproduction, from contraception to embryology and neonatology. My second topic is clinical trials. I had a melanoma in 2008, at age 26, which luckily, due to scientific advances when I was diagnosed, was successfully removed and no longer poses a threat to my life. This event had a big impact on me, because it dawned on me that had I been born 50 years earlier, the science to diagnose and treat me so quickly might not have been there, and I might have died at a very young age. Since then, I have made it my mission to help make research accessible to all languages so that diagnosis and treatment may advance quicker and fewer people have to die of undiagnosed or untreated cancers. This “mission” drives me to read a lot of research and clinical trials with new drugs and devices, which has given me a good background in terms of terminology and understanding of the mechanisms of clinical trials. I do not translate exclusively within these two topic, but whenever my clients happen to need translations in my specialist topics, I make sure they know how familiar I am with their particular subject.

These are long-term tips that you can apply throughout your medical translations career and they are always certain to improve the quality and timeliness of your work. Good luck!

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In a different post about Medical Language, I have written about the history of Western medical language and why it is important for medical translators.

Today I am going to elaborate a little on the importance of knowing, or at least recognizing, certain words in Latin.

Often medical terms are comprised of:

PREFIX + ROOT WORD + SUFFIX

or a combination of:

PREFIX + ROOT WORD

ROOT WORD + SUFFIX

PREFIX + SUFFIX

In other words, several medical terms may be broken down into two or three terms.

Some examples of Latin PREFIXES include: osi-, ovo-, ante-, ad-, capill-, cervic-, cutane-, de-, latero-, lingua-, adip(o)-, intra-, inter-, lact(i), lact(o)-, manu-, nas(o)-, nerv-, piri-, post-, retro-, rubro, sinus-, semi-, trans-, tri-, ultra-, ungui-

Some examples of ROOT WORDS include: papul(o), pleura, sanguine, ventr(o)

Some examples of SUFFIXES include: -al, -ous, -ary, -cidal, -cide, -icle, -tensive, -ule, -version

When you understand the meanings of these words independently, it becomes easy to understand them combined.

For example, the Latin prefix adip(o) means fat; the suffix -ous means pertaining to. Hence adipous, or as it has been adapted adipose tissue means fatty tissue.

There are numerous examples like that, such as intravenous, which combines intra (within) and venous (related to veins). Intravenous is, therefore, the medical term for administration of a drug product into the circulatory system through veins. This goes for intramuscular as well, i.e. into the muscle.

Although there are several terms derived from Latin, there are many more derived from Greek, which I intend to address in a future post. A medical translator does not need to learn Latin or Greek in order to translate proficiently. A medical translator should have a collection of references at his/her disposal, which may help him/her make sense of new terms, such as the Wikipedia list of prefixes, suffixes and root words.

Also, a medical translator should be curious. If you often work in a specific field of medicine, such as human reproduction, you will see certain prefixes very often, like ovo-, ovul(o)-, ventr(o); hence, whenever you come across one of these, you should seek to learn its meaning, even if you have found a translation for the whole term. In time, you will know the meanings of the common prefixes, suffixes and root words in your field by heart and this will be invaluable when you come across newly coined terms or terminology that is new to you.

 

 

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First of all, let me just say that I am writing this standing up. I will stand up for the whole time I am researching and writing this post. At the end, I will let you know how long it took and how it felt. Read on, you will see why.

Again, this is a reply to a fellow translator’s request for suggestions on how to protect our backs. After my posts on 10 things freelance translators should do every day (parts 1 and 2), he realized how time consuming that might be on top of our translation work and asked me for some tips on how to reduce and prevent back damage.

Interestingly, the first piece of advice I found in my research was in the NY Times blog here and it was making the case for standing up. In essence, the post shows how many health problems, such as obesity, back pain and even some types of cancers, are associated with sitting down for most of the day, even if you exercise daily!

In addition, your back is not the only part of you that suffers! According to an article by a fellow blogger, Mark Sisson, sitting shortens and tightens your hip flexors, lengthens and weakens your hip extensors, stretches out your hamstrings and simply renders your gluteal muscles inactive. In layman terms, we are overusing some of our essential drivers of movement and underusing others. In the long term, this imbalance may have serious consequences to our ability to move effectively, i.e. to walk, bend, squat, etc. Here is a very informative chart by Medical Billing and Coding showing the detrimental effects of sitting down on your health.

So how can we protect our backs, hips and all other movement muscles and still manage the 8-12-hour (sometimes longer) daily workload? Here is the best advice I found.

1. Stand-up: challenge the common notion that because you are working in front of your computer you need to be sitting down. Find a place in your office or home, where you can place your computer and comfortably stand (watch not to hunch) while typing. I have a kitchen bench that is just the right height, but if you don’t have that you may need to be creative, use maybe a step on your stairs, a stool with some books piled up on them… You do not need to work standing up all day, but the longer you manage the better for your overall posture and long-term health.

2. Get up every hour or so and move. I found this advice on several websites, essentially suggesting stretch routines, squats, etc. If you like your stretches, 5-minute abs, and other quick exercise routines, find a source on fitness advice that you trust on and follow that routine. I read recently that our brain functions in 90-min concentration slots, after that we lose concentration for a while. So why not use that break to move around a bit? I have not been able to exercise much recently, so what I try to do is fit my house chores, e.g. hanging the washing up, ironing, cooking, etc., in between my “concentration slots”. I try to make housework part of my plan for the working day (a prerogative of  working from home!), so that although my day may be a little longer, when I switch off my computer there is (hopefully) little left to do. This is your time anyway and you are freelancer, so be creative and use it however you like. If you want to go out and play with your children for a few minutes or have lunch with friends, do so without guilt, because ensuring your long-term health will ultimately ensure that you can keep working.

3. Sit properly. Our bodies naturally tend towards comfortable positions, which usually means slumping, hunching, laying or sitting on fluffy pillows, a nice couch, etc. If you had a regular office job, that might not be an option, but working from home, it becomes extremely tempting to work from your bed, your couch or anywhere where you happen to be and feel most comfortable.  There are times when you will need and should take advantage of that freedom, like when you are doing creative work, or maybe just leisurely studying your topic of specialization, but try not to spend most of your time in those positions. The correct sitting position, according to the Gokhale Method, is sitting upright, with your bottom slightly behind your spine, rolling your shoulders back a couple of times to position them and then relaxing your shoulders. This is not a comfortable position to begin with, but it puts the least strain on your back and you will eventually get used to it to a point that hunching your shoulders will actually feel uncomfortable. Allow your back muscles time to strengthen to support this position; you may consider working your back and abs out to speed up this process.

4. Position your computer properly. This varies from person to person and I really cannot tell you what the exact best position for you is. However, the best way to determine where to place your computer is to watch your posture. Most people find that when their computer is at eye level they don’t hunch as much, and it is easier to maintain an upright back and neck. That works for me too! Experiment with where you put your computer or how you position your chair until you find that position that makes it easiest for you to remain upright (including your neck).

5. Mix and matchAny position that you assume for too long will put a strain on your muscles and bones, so the key here is to change your position. So during your working day, work standing up for some time, move around, sit down properly, and then allow yourself some time for relaxation. By not putting your body through a constant routine of always being in the same position, you will also stimulate your brain to keep alert and this will ultimately improve the quality of your work.

6. Exercise. Exercising has a million benefits, which are all over the Internet and I am certainly not the most qualified person to list them all for you.  It is common knowledge that if you work out the muscles that support your spine, i.e. upper and lower back, chest and abdominal muscles, it will be easier to maintain your posture as they get stronger. I am not expert though and I will not go into details here, if this is something that interests you, feel free to look around for advice and please share your findings with me in the comments. All I can talk about is my experience, and exercising daily has not just made me happier, but has also improved my posture a lot. Certain types of exercises, like Yoga and Pilates, are particularly great for your posture.

7. Do things that make you feel good about yourself. Exercising is good, but you know what else is great for your posture? Feeling good! When you feel good, knowing that you are taking care of yourself, you stand and sit a little taller. Confidence has a dramatic impact on posture and vice-versa. If you do not believe me, hear it from the experts, the social psychologist Amy Cuddy has a very enlightening TED talk about the topic!

Helping a charity, spending time with your loved ones, doing work that you enjoy, they all make you stand and sit taller. Our posture greatly reflects how we feel. We instinctively know that, so much so that sometimes our first impressions of people are based on their posture. Hence, a very good advice for protecting your back is protecting your mind, and making sure that you are doing the things that make you happy and confident!

Now over to you, I do not feel particularly qualified to tell you what to do when you already have a back pain or condition, but some of you out there may have some good advice both to protect and to improve our backs. Please share it in the comments.

PS. I have now been standing for two hours, it felt a little uncomfortable at first, and I kept meaning to sit down, but I am OK now and actually feel a lot more focused, because focusing on my posture is forcing me to focus on my work as well. I guess I should take a break and move around a bit now. :)