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.
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