When I visit universities to talk to translation students about working in the industry, it is apparent that they have only a limited idea of the options available to them in the commercial world. But that is all about to change. In my dealings with academic institutions from now on, I will urge both the students and teaching staff to get hold of a copy of Nicole Y. Adams’ book ‘Diversification in the Language Industry – Success Beyond Translation’, published by NYA Communications in November 2013. After that, I will hopefully never again have to deal with the question “what else is there to do but to translate?”.
The book was not written for students or academia; it aims to encourage freelance translators to adopt diversification as a risk-reduction strategy, helping them to safeguard against boredom, plummeting word rates, social isolation or potential lack of income at times of physical strain or injury. Nicole has done a brilliant job in examining the views of 250 practising freelance translators and putting together an almost exhaustive collection of articles and interviews by some of the brightest and most engaging professionals in the translation community today. Demonstrating the global nature of that community, the 50 linguists contributing to the book represent different parts of the world, yet are well-known to us as bloggers, conference speakers, trainers or active members in our associations. Some of them I have even met personally. A few of them write about the current trends and best practices in the industry, whilst others share their own success story in diversifying their services. For many, it was not a planned course of action but rather a decision to develop new skills in response to a call for them.
In analysing their stories, Nicole determines and demonstrates a diversification strategy for freelancers who already operate a solid translation business. The progression path goes from ‘Translation’ to ‘Linguistic Diversification’ (examples of this include editing texts written by non-native speakers, machine translation post-editing, voice-over, subtitling, transcription, transcreation, copywriting, cross-cultural consulting, linguistic validation, language teaching and interpreting); to ‘Extra-Linguistic Diversification’ (project management, strategic alliances with fellow freelancers, blogging, social media, online marketing, specialisation in domains and differentiation from competition); to ‘Passive Diversification’ (turning the standard time-based translation activity into a product that only needs to be produced once and then resold multiple times e.g. publications, continuing professional development or online training courses); to ‘External Diversification’ (offering specialised services to fellow translation professionals e.g. coaching, business training, consultation, DTP or public speaking) and finally to ‘Distinctive Diversification’ (creating a unique service or product e.g. Mox’s Blog – comic books about the life of a translator; Translator Pay – a foreign exchange and money transfer service; Translators Without Borders – a non-profit global aid organisation; or Rainy London Branding – an identity and branding consultancy for translators).
This inspiring collection of real-life testimonies is a tribute to the agility and innovation of professionals tackling an inevitable change in the circumstances affecting their working lives. Although the translation industry will undoubtedly continue to flourish due to the increasing data volume on a global scale, a generalist translator with purely linguistic expertise may struggle to find satisfactory demand for their services in the face of technological advancements and new consumer expectations. None of the writers of this book wishes to compel translators to abandon the occupation they love and have invested years in training for, but diversification will certainly help all of us to find our niche in the brave new translation world.