Read This: Thoughts on Translation

It's time for our very first book review of the year, dear readers! Full disclosure: the author, veteran translator and industry insider (and ATA board member), Corinne McKay, is a dear friend of ours and kindly sent us review copies of her book, Thoughts on Translation. However, we are still very much able to give you an honest evaluation of her work. Let's cut to the chase: it's a great read. Read on for Judy's review of the book version of Corinne's popular translation blog, Thoughts on Translation

A prominent spot on the bookshelf.
When Corinne told us that she was planning a book version of her highly addictive and beautifully written blog, Thoughts on Translation, I started thinking about how she would go about making content that's been written for the internet attractive and compelling in book form. I wondered if this would be something I would be able to achieve, but truth be told, I wouldn't even know where to start. Would she print the posts as is? With comments? Without comments? Grouped by month? I was curious. 

The result is a very well-organized and easy-to-read compendium of some 100 articles that have been published on her blog. One of the many things I admire about Corinne is her very distinctive voice. She stays away from excessive embellishment, has a very recognizable style, and gives straightforward and highly useful advice. Yes, those are the signs of great writing, and the book doesn't disappoint. It's meant to be read in short chunks if that's all you have time for, but I read it in essentially one sitting last month. Even though I've been a loyal follower of her blog and thought I'd read every single entry, I was surprised at how much I didn't remember and how many new things I learned.

I am particularly fond of the nice structure of the book. It is smartly divided into nine chapters, and each contains articles (sans comments) that relate to that specific topic, say: freelance mindset, client relations, marketing and networking, growing your freelance business, translation technique and translation quality, etc.  The first chapter, aptly titled "Getting started at a freelance translator," is a fantastic read for new linguists. Every time I get an e-mail along the lines of: "Help! I don't know where to start!" I am tempted to send them a copy of Corinne's first book, which I have called the bible for freelance translators (How to succeed as a freelance translator) and this book, especially the first chapter. It's an honest look into the realities of running a small business, and as opposed to what you read in many glossy translation program brochures, it's not sugar-coated. Corinne candidly shares some of her own trials and tribulations, which include sending some 400 applications to translation agencies at the beginning of her career. So if you have only sent five applications and have not received a response: you've got a long way to go. One of the aspects of the book that I really enjoy is that she shares so many examples from her own practice, which make this industry come alive for those who are not yet in it or don't know what to expect. That said, this book is also a good fit for experienced translators. I learned many things, including how to say no (page 66), an art that I am constantly refining. 

Don't miss the last chapter, which is all about money, and we are all in this industry not only because we love it, but also because we want to earn a living, right? Corinne has the ability to smartly dissect difficult issues and to present both sides of an argument in a very balanced way, something that few writers do truly well. I really admire her for that ability. For instance, she tackles the hotly debated issue of translation tests for new clients. I've truly had trouble seeing the other side of the coin on this one, as I am firmly opposed to giving away one's work for free, but Corinne's clear explanation of the other side made a lot of sense. 

As usual,  Corinne is the wise and experienced translator who holds your hand a bit along the way while you explore this fantastic industry of ours. With Corinne's book as a guide, one feels as if this journey can be nothing but a success, even though she clearly points out the potential challenges and downfalls. You can purchase Thoughts on Translation here


Alina on April 12, 2013 at 12:32 PM said...

Hope the Kindle edition will be out soon.

Corinne McKay on April 12, 2013 at 12:52 PM said...

Thank you so much for this thoughtful review! I did have a hard time deciding how to make the blog entries "print-friendly" and whether or not to include the comments. But I think that organizing them by topic worked well. I really appreciate your insights and I would definitely encourage you two to make your blog into a book at some point as well!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on April 12, 2013 at 2:34 PM said...

@Alina: Thanks for commenting! We think Corinne has already done the Kindle edition, and it should be out soon.

@Corinne: You are very welcome. It's a great book and we are delighted to spread the word. Now, whew, we should probably do a second version of the Entrepreneurial Linguist to update some of the outdated sections before we do anything else, but thanks so much for the offer!

Übersetzung Spanisch on April 18, 2013 at 12:41 PM said...

I certainly enjoyed the way you explore your experience and
knowledge of the review! Keep it up. Thanks

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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