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TM-Town Expert Translator Q&A

How and Why You Should Mentor

Featuring Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

Starts: November 19, 2015
Ends: November 21, 2015

Samuel is one of the top 3 mentors in ProZ.com's Mentoring Program and has given presentations in the past on how to be a great mentor. Ask him anything and find out his advice on how to become a mentor to young translators.

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Questions: 3
Comments: 6

Votes: 2


Could you please suggest me some mentoring services websites?

Votes: 1

Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

Hi Barbara.

I currently participate in the mentoring program on ProZ.com, though to access that you need to have a paying membership (it can be a student membership though).


Votes: 0

Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

Barbara: If you google "Mentoring for Translators" you will see a couple more options ;)

Votes: 1

Kevin Dias

For new or young translators getting into the industry, what is the best way to find a mentor? Should they cold email someone in their language pair / field of expertise?

Votes: 1

Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

Hi Kevin.

I think it really depends on what exactly you are looking for in a Mentor.

There are several websites that offer Mentoring services free of charge for members, and that can be a good place to start.

I would say that finding someone that is willing could be tough if you just "cold call", since it might just come as a complete surprise that someone would want them to be a mentor without them having offered to do so.

Probably the best place to start is on one of the translation websites where they offer the service... You browse through the people offering to be a Mentor and check out their profiles. From there you can see if you find someone that matches with your philosophy, or your work ethic, or your language pairs, or you think they have something to offer.

One major point a lot of people get hung up on is "Language Pair". I personally have mentored people that do not work in my pairs, since I don't provide language-related mentoring. I focus on practical aspects of getting yourself out there, selling yourself, having a good profile and a good CV, taking the right training courses, not getting ripped off by "special offers" or finding yourself getting roped into scams or long test translations that never lead anywhere (except to frustration, of course).

As I said, it is all about what you want from the relationship... I think it is important to know where you want the relationship to go, what the goals are (for both mentor and apprentice). Do you want language mentoring? business? specific skills? specific fields of expertise? All that is going to condition who you get in touch with and how.

I think it is best to get in touch with a couple of people, either "cold calling", going in to an agency, getting on a translator website, etc., and from there, test the waters, see how you feel corresponding with these people... If there is no rapport, there will not be a good mentoring relationship.

Remember that the idea is that someone is going to give you ahelping hand getting started, not load you down with pro-bono work so that you can "progress" (their career, not yours LOL) and "improve" (their bank account balance).

If you are not enjoying it, something is wrong.

Votes: 1

Kevin Dias

That's a really interesting point about not getting hung up on language pairs - I had never thought of it that way...but you are right, there are many aspects to being a freelance translator (many of them outside of actually translating). Thanks for the answer! :thumbsup:

Votes: 2

Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

I think it is actually the number 1 point that people tend to fixate on, and I think that is a big mistake.

If you want to be a translator, you have to have proficiency-level knowledge of your source language and native-level knowledge of your target language, that is a no-brainer... Studying language is something that is best done with language trainers or individually, in an immersion situation, with good resources. It is not really something that can be dealt with in a mentor-apprentice relationship, since a freelance or agency translator does not have time for that sort of dedication to their apprentice... It is just not practical.

As for actual translation, I would recommend getting a couple of good books about translation (so many out there on the market, just search for Translation Theory in Amazon), and read. Then translate. Daily. A lot. You don't need a peer to evaluate your translation: Just save what you are working on and go back to it in 10 days time and see how it reads. If it is terrible, think how you can make it flow better, where you have made mistakes, what has gone wrong.

I think the hard part of becoming a translator is mainly the actual "getting work" bit, since most language-oriented people are not really business-oriented people and tend to be quite shy. I was lucky enough to grow up with my parents working on craft fairs, street markets and trade shows selling hand-made jewellery, so I was standing behind a stall and selling jewellery to people (with a varying degree of interest in buying it) by the time I was 12: Talking to strangers, convincing them they want something and making them feel happy with what they have decided to buy is something that comes as second nature to me, and that is where I try to help my apprentices... Quite literally to "pimp" themselves, have the confidence to get out there and stick their necks out, offering themselves to the giant global market of translation.

Votes: 1

Kevin Dias

Is it important to lay out goals for the mentor/mentee relationship at the beginning? Or should mentors just go with the flow and take it day by day with the mentee?

Votes: 2

Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah

Well, that is a great question.

I think both are important.

What I generally advise, both new mentors and new apprentices, is to set out a kind of roadmap of where things are going to go. Just lay down some key points that you want to talk about. Make a couple of lists of what both of you think is important in the industry and then go from there.

I personally set out around 20 key points, from marketing strategies to working with agencies, discussing professional associations to training courses, test translations to ergonomics, time management to CVs and cover letters... I like to lay those down as the starting points for conversations that then can branch out into any number of other topics, but I do like to bring things back to that original list now and again... It just helps keep things sane ;)

I think that 100% "free-flow" would be a mistake, since it could just fizzle out very quickly, as the mentee might not know what questions to ask and might not really take advantage of the opportunity, and the mentor could get frustrated as the mentee is not asking anything interesting.