5 tips for getting experience in translation when you are just starting out

I know how frustrating it is when you are just starting out your career in translation (or any field, really) and no-one wants to hire you because you have no experience yet. Well, if someone among them doesn’t take the leap of faith to employ you, you will never gain some, will you? I know, it can be tricky!

Of course, companies are hesitating to trust someone just out of the university or from a different discipline, it is completely logical. They need high-functioning, committed workers who can prove their skills. But they also need enthusiastic employees who will go the extra mile to show what they deserve and can do. If you don’t insist and don’t try to show them how valuable you could be for their company they will never know, will they?

So let’s see how you can find some experience when you have none!


First of all, you might already have more experience than you think! 

1. Your university assignments

For example,  you might have done a translation for a local business, museum, even the university. This counts as experience, too! Think carefully and if you are still in university try to land assignments that are attached to the work environment and not just theoretical essays.

2. A friend definitely has asked you

to translate their certificate, diplomas, school essay (I’m sure you have had plenty of those requests 😛 ) This counts if it happened more than once and if you took it seriously and worked hard on it.

3. Part-time and summer jobs

If you have worked a part-time job during your student years, think how the skills you acquired there might prove useful: even a bar-tending job handling multicultural clients can be described as relevant in your work experience section. A job as a car-sales assistant will be valuable if you want to break into translating automotive texts. Make sure you are able to justify it if you are asked for it during an interview. Remember to make it all about the skills and particular knowledge that you gained during your work there.

Even if you didn’t work or had any experience whatsoever during your studies, there are still ways to gain experience at the beginning of your career. 

4. Volunteering

You can volunteer for a non-profit organisation, like Translators Without Borders, where you will gain experience and you will be giving back to the community, too. Make sure you research the organisation you choose and don’t forget to allocate some time for actively looking for employment.

5. Look around you

Reach out to a company/client you would like to work with and offer them a translation you think they need for a competitive price – for example, if you notice that your favorite local cafe has international clients but doesn’t have a menu in different languages offer to translate it for them in a low (but still market respecting) price. Or for free coffee for a month (depending on the work needed, of course). Now, I’m in no case an advocate for working for free so please make sure you get at least some compensation for your time. It is a way to show yourself and others that you take your job seriously and its not just a hobby for you. Otherwise, people will treat you like a hobbyist and we definitely don’t want that!

Take a minute here to consider a few things:

It is easy to fall in the trap of low prices when you are just starting out but please remember:

If you don’t value your skills high enough, your clients won’t either.

People want to pay less , that’s for sure but don’t accept rates  too low as you wouldn’t accept low services from anyone.

A successful career is built slowly but steadily and taking the worst paying jobs a) will not help you pay your rent b) makes you look cheap and c) wastes your time from looking for actually rewarding employment opportunities. 

So don’t be afraid to ask, aim high and look out for opportunities. We all started somewhere and it takes hard work to go anywhere. Be passionate about what you do and you will never have anything to worry about!


cover photo by Sofia Petridena


7 things to cheer you up when you are down

I’m an inherently optimistic person and for the 10 times I fall down I will always get up 11 – here is a list of my favorite things to do when things don’t go as planned 🙂

Go to your favorite Chinese all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet

After all, you know what they say : “It’s better to be sorry for the things you did than for things you didn’t do”

shrimp noodles

Buy a lottery ticket for next week

Continue reading

What I learnt at my first job!

At my first job, after my postgraduate studies, I had a colleague called Olga. Her surname, age etc. are not significant here but she was one of the kindest people I have ever met and  thinking of her I would like to talk about the kindness of people who have nothing to gain from helping you.

Olga was in a way my mentor, although none of us thought of it like that at the time. I might have had the knowledge to do my job well in the company where we used to work but I had no clue about working environments, co-worker relationships, how to deal with demanding bosses or how to balance work and personal life. She woudl make me take breaks when she could see that I was about to crash Continue reading

cookbook design

How to publish a cook-book

Inspired by my talk with Nadia, over at @greenrootskitchen, a personal chef and vegan enthusiast.

So you’ve got a few cool recipes, an audience with raving reviews of your food – an idea about a book has been forming, and it has got you thinking, “Oh well this could be something great, but how on earth is it going to get out of my head and become an actual book?”

First of all, you have to answer the one question that is the same for most kinds of books: are you planning to publish traditionally or are you looking for self-publishing options? Continue reading

Dear Reader…

My dear readers! I’d love it if you could devote just a few minutes of your time to help me decide on some changes I was thinking of doing to my blog 🙂 I’m sending you my thanks along with a big hug and a juicy summer smoothie 🙂

That’s it! Thank you for taking the time to add your valuable input to my future planning 🙂

As promised, here is your super yummy smoothie to help you through the day ❤


Ps. I might or might not be preparing something super fantastic about books and literature for you! Stay tuned xoxoxoxoxo

Is freelancing like team sports or is it a solo game?

Working as a freelancer might feel like the world’s loneliest job but it doesn’t have to be, and even shouldn’t be especially if you want to be a successful business owner.

As freelancing in any field requires more than one skills (your service of choice, bookkeeping, marketing and many more), it is more something like team sports: to survive in the freelance world you need to have reliable co-players. 


As a translator, in particular, Continue reading

The busy translator’s guide to summer style

Some of the best summer nights out are with shorts and t-shirts and beers at your local. However, summer is also known as the “wedding season”, aka the time when you have to plan your weekends depending on your friends’ weddings. These things should all take place in winter, when we would love some more socializing but no, as we live in Greece and summer is THE season for everything, they all have to be at the same time (sigh). Continue reading

How to make your own blog in 5 steps

I can’t stop saying how much I love blogging! If you are reading your favorite blogs and would like to have your own but don’t know where to start I’m here to tell you its easier than you think! I’ll give you some basic steps and I promise that it gets easier the more you work on it 🙂

photo by mediamarmalade.com

photo by mediamarmalade.com

Please note: I’m giving you the steps for a free blog, not a self-hosted one  – self-hosted blogs are also easy to work and more stylish but I think that the free scheme is good for a beginner in blogging.

  1. Choose your platform: Blogger or WordPress or even Tumblr. I’m more of a WordPress fan for this type of blogs as they are easier, more simple and there is support online and through wordpress, too.
  2. Choose your name. Brainstorm and write down a few ideas, think of what topics you’d like to cover and play with their meaning or combine them. Be creative J When you have chosen your platform, you can try your name and see if it is available. Pick something simple and memorable, something you will be able to say to someone without having to spell it out.
  3. Choose a theme – I’m always wasting ages on choosing themes! Most times I end up with the same as I seriously can’t choose J But don’t waste too much time on this step: choose a simple one, easily customizable and when you learn your platform sufficiently you will be able to upgrade to a more complex one, add widgets, plugins etc. There are many pre-designed themes for various subjects, such as magazines or food blogging.blog templates
  4. Decide on your menu and pages: usually your menu is the line under the header image and over your content and displays your pages (such as About Me) and categories (such as Books/Magazines). You can also have just one page and have your articles show like a diary. My blog has only 2 pages while my Greek blog features categories as I write for a lot of things there and wanted to make navigation easier.english blog metaphrasi1
  5. Write your first post! Most platforms have a very easy interface for posting. In wordpress it is under Blog Posts>Add new. You will see a category menu on your right and pick at least one category and (optional) some tags. You can also add a featured image – to be featured whenever your post gets shared 🙂
  • Your blog does not have to be immaculate from day one, so don’t stress too  much about it but don’t forget to thoroughly proofread your posts, choose nice, clear images (plenty of advice online for which images are best for blogging) and don’t forget to be your fabulous self! Don’t try to copy the exact same look of someone’s blog – they might be cool but they are not you, right?

    And if you are at loss for inspiration, check out this post about Where to find Inspiration and how to keep it.

    A final tip: connect your favorite social media to your blog so that your readers will be able to find you in their favorite medium. I’m obsessed with Instagram lately J

    Are you feeling ready? Follow my blog for more juicy info, follow your favorite blogs and join the blogosphere! If you need more technical advice (that I can offer) I’ll be glad to help and there’s also a reader here that is a wordpress expert I think J

instagram books


Is the world (of translation) dark and full of terrors? An interview with the translator of Game of Thrones in Greek

If there is one TV series I am totally glued to every Monday morning, it is Game of Thrones. When I read the books, some summers ago, I really had no idea as to how (and if) I would be able to escape George R.R. Martin’s universe. The series was not complete yet and the ending was far from seen on the horizon. Frustration, deprivation and fear of the unknown for my favourite heroes were my emotions. Like living with a company or with a family for so long and then losing them without closure!

game of thrones

I was SO not ready for the books to end!

I started watching the shows, even though I knew it would be a (sweet) torture. And now our Mondays (we watch the episodes on Mondays) are so much better because of it!

The universe built by G.R.R. Martin, however, is not only a beautiful story, but also a real minefield for translators all over the world. Far from being invisible, as argued by many scholars, the translator adds his/her own contribution to the course of a book.

So I decided to interview for you the translator of 3 of the GOT books in Greek, Alexandra Letsa. She was more than happy to answer questions and shed some light in the dark and sinister world of Westeros and beyond, where Lannisters always keep their debts, Starks reunite, dragons are re-born and all fans await the Winds of Winter.

ygritte and jon snow

As the interview series in my blog are called Cappuccino Books, I’d like to begin by asking Alexandra: What is your favourite type of coffee?

Alexandra: Nescafe mostly – especially when translating, anything else seems  too weak.

Could you please share any particular difficulties (compared to translating other books) and tell us which were the most pleasant moments in translating GOT?

Regarding difficulties, Martin, as an author, uses word play and puns a lot, as well as multiple word meanings, so this is a recurring issue in the translation of his works.

Furthermore, the greatest challenge is, of course, consistency: due the number or heroes and the different spellings and transcribings in Greek – it is a huge feat to remember how each term was previously translated or how was each name translated or whether a place was translated or transcribed [note: because Greek has a different alphabet, names are usually transcribed]. No glossary can be as extensive as to include each and every hero and place of this series and often one would have to search in the thousands of pages of the books.

The most satisfying moments are when there are scenes full of atmosphere which manage to absorb me – when you suddenly stop and realize you have translated many pages without stopping. In a technical level, the atmosphere created by Martin is a pleasure for me – many chapters might be slow in action but they are my personal favorites.

How do you deal with the many languages featured in the books, many of which are invented? (such as High and low Valyria, Dothraki, etc)

In the books, the use of other languages is significantly less compared to the TV series. They don’t come up often, except some words in Valyrian and a few Dothraki words –mainly place names. Anyway, we always transcribe those – although our versions don’t always match the sounds used in the TV series.

Game-of-Thrones books

And what about those instances when the meaning of names or places is important for the book plot?  

It was decided from the beginning, that some things had to be transcribed – such as most castles, cities or surnames. When a name has not been translated and some sort of explanation is needed, we usually add a Translator’s (foot)note. Some particular cases, such as Snow, Ghost or Summer, names which are recurrent and have a meaning for the plot, have their Translator’s Notes the first time they appear in the novel.

What about when a pun or wordplay cannot be totally translated? How do you deal with such cases? An example from the most recent season 6 is Hodor – Hold the door … 

If you are lucky and you already know that further in the book (or in the next book) there will be a pun with the hero’s name, it will be easy to do something similar in Greek without altering (too much) the original text. This has happened a few times and I feel it was more due to luck than inspiration! If there are no other factors present, you can even change the original words. In the particular episode though we didn’t know beforehand (nor did the rest of the world)! Our only option is a translator’s note (unless something changes in the series). However, I would like to note here that I am not completely against using footnotes. A translator might feel he/she has failed when they have to resolve to using footnotes but it is more important to convey to the reader what the author was doing, in any way that they can.

got quotes1

Did you have to contact the author for any ambiguous passages?  

No, despite the many questions that have arisen it hasn’t been necessary to contact the author directly.

Look at his evil smile! ;)

Look at his evil smile! 😉

What did you feel was more important for you in translating the particular books, was it faithfulness to the original’s meaning or the recreation of the atmosphere created by the author? And what are the sacrifices one has to make to achieve a balance between the two?

Being faithful to the meaning – although I have already said I consider the atmosphere created by Martin almost as important. The scales lean to one or the other once in a while and some times you have to compromise on both fronts. Besides, many times the meaning of a phrase goes much further than a simple translation of its words. A simple example of this was the songs, where we  wanted to keep the alliteration too, or the puns with Reek in A Dance with Dragons where we sacrificed faithfulness to stay faithful instead to the deeper meaning of the text). In any case, however, any choice is better than omission – I have seen translations which completely omit phrases and this is something I totally disagree with, however insignificant a phrase might be for the plot.

Has the visualisation of the series for the screen helped or complicated your work?

When the TV series aired, the first 4 books had already been published so many things were already known and given for us – it is very difficult to go back and change something in books already in circulation (even though some changes were implemented in the following books). So in the actual translation, the TV series has not been either positive or negative. In the next book, though, we will be challenged – if the episode with Hodor is indicative of what is coming! I have a feeling that the audience will already be familiar with many things and our choices will be limited.

 Who is your favourite character;

Arya, by far. And in general, I’m more of a Stark fan.

arya stark

 Who should sit on the Iron Throne in your opinion?  

🙂 I don’t mind that! All candidates have their own shortcomings as leaders and I have never been able to say that definitely he/she is the one. I am waiting to see what the author does, unless someone “convinces” me. My own criterion, however is effectiveness and not hereditary rights – and that’s why I’m not such a big Daenarys fan.

danaerys throne

What is in your opinion the element that makes the series (books and TV) so fascinating for such a wide range of audience?  

The characters and its realism.  The characters’ realism actually – they are all grey, human, with their shortcomings and their obsessions, their wrong decisions – and the realistic consequences of their actions. There is a hero for every reader or viewer, one with whom they can relate (and for the death of whom they might possibly cry…) Martin’s artistic style has a calm allure, he can provoke intense feelings with simple words and his ideas are often amazing – however, I think that his greater asset as an author is the characters he has created.

Some more things about Alexandra:

I entered the world of book translating almost accidentally, thanks to my love for literature and especially fantasy. I am almost ten years in this field now and this love for books as well as fantasy has not been reduced at all. I only hope the readers enjoy the result, too!

Thank you for your questions and the interest 🙂

The pleasure was mine, Alexandra, and thank you for all the interesting answers! I really think you opened a door to the translator’s workspace and thank you for letting us take a look inside!

So what do you think ? Is the world (of translation) is dark and full of terrors? Or is it a challenging war field between faithfulness and creativity? For me it is like a whole imaginary world, where spring fields, magical castles and exotic beaches give their place to dark and sinister forests and dangerous creeks…. Just like our own world (kind of) J

Thanks for reading!

Literary vs Technical Translation – 5 major differences

  1. In literary translation you have fewer unknown words but spend more time deciding which word better conveys the original’s tone.    
  2. untranslatable wordsIn literary translation you get paid less for translating more than simple meaning. translation

  3. In technical translation you have to be highly specialized in the field you are translating (eg. Medicine, Finance, EU terminology etc) while in literature you might encounter many different fields and discourses in the same book (eg. an American detective, a petty criminal from Yorkshire and a farmer from Ukraine walk into a bar). images (5)
  4. In literary translation you risk twisting the original’s meaning  while in technical translation you risk mechanical accidents (washing machine instructions), and even diplomatic episodes (politics and newspaper articles). Horizon_specialization
  5. In literary translation you have to combine content and style (tone, form, alliterations, assonance and more), while in technical translation content is king.

content is king

Βoth are equally challenging and demanding and it depends on what you like most  really: being artsy and creative but having everyone say “why did you translate x as y” all the time or being accurate and strict with your words even if they sometimes don’t “sound very nice” in your language…

I’m all for Literary Translation, even though I sometimes envy Technical Translation for its accuracy and straightforward-ness 🙂 What about you?