A colleague recently introduced me to a life-changing tool! Well… maybe I’m exaggerating, BonPatron certainly hasn’t changed my life, but it has helped me in many ways. Above all, it helps me confidently contact French speakers – potential clients and colleagues.
French is my second language. This means that I am fluent, however, I am not a native speaker. I make mistakes that francophones find quaint, cute, and generally harmless. Unless, they’re professionals. In that case, such errors have a negative impact - they make me seem unprofessional. Consequently, they could stand between me and a new client.
As a freelance translator, it’s just me, myself, and I running the show. One important task I have is contacting businesses in my second language, since they are the ones that need texts translated into English. When I first started emailing French translation agencies, I put a lot of time into writing a beautiful cover letter, each word carefully chosen. I checked for agreement, appropriate conjugation, spelling, etc. Then, I proudly sent it out to almost 20 agencies, adapting it slightly for each one, of course.
I will never forget this next part. One gentleman wrote me back, not to hire me, but to point out a few small errors, along with my misuse of the word publique (adjective only) as a noun instead of public (noun or adjective). All simple mistakes.
However, it hit me hard in the confidence muscle. I was so proud of that cover letter. I just knew I’d written it perfectly, yet there were errors! I needed a solution to avoid that happening again, so that I would come across as professional as possible with agencies and potential clients.
Well, my colleague, Jennifer Bikkal Horne (Translations By Jen), told me about BonPatron. I was ecstatic! I’d never thought of looking for a tool. I had assumed I was on my own, as all language learners are, to learn by making mistakes. But, that’s not true when you have a great community of translators to share tips with you.
Here’s how it works. You paste your text into a form, click on “Check Text,” and BonPatron checks your grammar and spelling. Now, MY favorite part is that it doesn’t correct it for you. Instead, it points out potential trouble spots, explains what is incorrect, and makes suggestions, if possible. This way, you can still learn from your mistakes. Oh, and, it’s free to use!
Recently, I used BonPatron to check a French cover letter. The tool created a list below the form that showed what I needed to check. Within the form, the potential errors were emphasized, too. The spelling errors were underlined and the grammar ones were highlighted. I hovered the pointer over each one and read the accompanying explanation. I found a couple of the “please check” spots did not apply because BonPatron hadn’t understood my sentence structure. All of the “modify” spots did, in fact, need to be modified. It even recommended putting spaces before question marks and colons. I knew that French punctuation rule, but had never applied it to my personal texts. It was nice to learn something.
It also has several other features that I won’t go into here. You’ll just have to try it out yourself!
So, can I say BonPatron was life-changing? No. But, I am now very confident when contacting French clients and colleagues. An essential for getting my business off the ground.
One of the exciting features about being a freelance language professional is that I can work in different fields every day, and, if I really wanted to, use it as a launching pad for a career in one of those fields. Off the top of my head, for example:
Fields: banking, military, marketing, immigration law, HR, cardiology, etc.
Careers: lawyer, grantwriter, doctor, politician, journalist, copywriter, etc.
Monday, I will be a product manager, accountant, social media manager, and specialist on Senegal’s public policy. The next day, I may add to that list being a contract writer (writing translations of them, to be exact) and remove my accountant role, since I finished those related tasks.
However, I have noticed this freelance feature being presented to new translators in a less than positive light.
Experienced language professionals pointedly warn, “There’s a lot more to it than translating documents. You have to play the many roles involved in running a business, keep up your language skills, learn new software, etc…” The tone comes across as intimidating, menacing. I picture my mom looming over me, hands on her hips, saying it in a stern voice in the context of, “I hope you know what you’re doing. Don’t come crying to me when you see how difficult it is.”
Well, now that I have a few years experience, I don't see the use in menacing newcomers. So, I choose to present it as a unique aspect meant to be embraced.
Don’t be intimidated! Enjoy the journey!
Yes, it takes time. Yes, there’s a lot to learn. But, learning is one of the best parts! You will not get bored, and you will have the possibility of moving into another career with the skills you learn as a translator.
Personally, I’m enjoying the journey of becoming a translator. I have learned so much as a language professional running my own business. I can now discuss marketing products with friends in that industry. I can share social selling tips with owners of small businesses. Hmmm… what else? I can tell interesting stories about obscure topics at dinner parties.
What about you? What have you learned?
Please comment below or on Twitter @Thoughtful_BAC.
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