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UTICamp-2020. 10 Lessons For Interpreters After COVID-19 Pandemics


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Speaker: Andrii Biesiedin

Many traditional lifestyles were shattered. Perhaps not so much for freelance translators working from home, but many interpreters were certainly caught off guard.

Most of us have survived the lockdown spring, but some could adapt to the new reality quicker and less painfully - and some were hit hard. This can't remain a sad but meaningless experience, because life is not returning back to precovidian times. We don't have a choice but to draw lessons from this experience, to adapt and to use it to boost our freelance careers (not an oxymoron!) and profession in general.

The title of this talk is catchy. 10-bullet-point lists are a cheap marketing cliché, but if you are reading this text, it has fulfilled its purpose. One of the pandemics lessons for us, freelance interpreters, is that we must be able to find our clients in the market turmoil, we must have marketing skills. I will go into details, which skills and how, but this is not a talk on marketing - it's only one of the 10 lessons I have drawn. If you want to know the other 9 - come and stay for the talk. Should be fun.

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UTICamp-2020. 10 Lessons For Interpreters After COVID-19 Pandemics

  1. 1. 10 Lessons For Interpreters After During The Pandemics 21 July 2020 Andrii Biesiedin
  2. 2. Disclaimer These are 10 lessons learnt from my own mistakes Don’t believe me, try the lessons yourself and see if they work for you. PS: They do. PPS: Survivorship bias. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  3. 3. 66% of interpreters in Ukraine have lost over 80% of income from interpretation (Source: original non-representative small sample research, n=30) ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  4. 4. Mistake #1: Complacency ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder:
  5. 5. Lesson #1: It’s never too late to start preparations. Even now. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  6. 6. Mistake #2: Clinging to past Your past business model will not work, because: - Old “half-day”/”day” rates do not work - RSI is genuinely harder because of bad sound and attention dispersal ◦ - With poor connectivity and microphone, algorithms compress the sound as much as possible. As the result: ◦ - You cannot physically hear the difference between male and female voices ◦ - You may not physically hear the difference between some consonants … So this work is outsourced to your brain. That’s what cognitive load means. Most importantly, this is not clear for many clients and moderators, but this is the exact same reason of the Zoom fatigue. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  7. 7. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 Facts about speech intelligibility
  8. 8. Lesson 2: Dare to dream Possible models are: - 2-hour (former half-day) - 4-hour -6-hour (day rate) ------------------------ 3-hour minimum (X) + 1/2x for every hour ------------------------ In a situation of crisis – increase the rates. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  9. 9. Mistake #3: Relying on agencies Most agencies seek to maximize profit by cutting their costs (you). Most agencies earn by scale. They need sustainable minimum viable quality, instead of occasional high quality. (Typical problem of mass production.) Most agencies’ managers are not caring about your interests We don’t have secretariats or cooperatives in Ukraine  ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  10. 10. Lesson 3: Learn marketing ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 Look for symbiosis, but avoid parasites
  11. 11. Mistake #4: “That’s not my job” A freelance RSI interpreter can’t really survive without the skills of: - a marketer, a negotiator, an engineer, an interpreter, an accountant… Just like in interpretation – specialization is necessary, but better have several of them! ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  12. 12. Lesson 4: You have to master other skills and specializations! ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  13. 13. Mistake #5: Misunderstanding value - What is the real need for that client in organizing that event? - How can I help the client fulfil that need, what do I need for that? - How can I explain this to the client, so that they would provide what I need (proper conditions and remuneration) ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  14. 14. Lesson #5: Think budgets, not rates ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  15. 15. Mistake #6: Fear of learning Mastering new skills and learning new value may seem scary. But the actual solution may be within easy reach. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  16. 16. Lesson #6: It is easier than it looks. Just take courage. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  17. 17. Lesson #6: It is easier than it looks. Just take courage. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  18. 18. Sidenote: we do miss engineers - and hubs are always better! ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 Having a dedicated engineer is ALWAYS better than a sit-at-home RSI. We have to explain this to clients, when possible.
  19. 19. Mistake #7: Lack of standards Professional standards is not “anything below 250 a day is dumping” Professional standards is what we all agree that we need to do a really good job for the client. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  20. 20. Lesson 7: Don’t shoot yourself in the foot ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 Standards are there for your own safety
  21. 21. Mistake #8: Little networking Out of ~400 of interpreters in Kyiv, how many participated in an interpreters conference? Translators, translation researchers, “translation teachers” have conferences and often think they can organize it for us. UTIC is a fantastic opportunity to come together and to wake up to the sounds of woodpecker dabbing and tigers roaring. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  22. 22. Lesson 8: Investment into networking and knowledge never fails ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  23. 23. Mistake #9: No association Pro forma “Ukrainian translators and interpreters associations” are actively harming us. Instead of being paragons, their founders are: - Promoting working solo - If the customer pays for shit, that means it’s quality shit - Google Translate is fine for 95% of legal translations Their purpose is powerplay, ego-tripping and controlling the academia. A professional association is about finding consensus and presenting our collective opinion to protect us all. (But it might be difficult with “translators and interpreters” approach). ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  24. 24. Lesson 9: we should come together! (keeping 1.5 m distance) ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  25. 25. Mistake #10: Pessimism Changes are scary, however one shouldn’t feel pessimistic: “Count down the months before the demise of interpretation” But even black swans have a silver lining. ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  26. 26. Mistake #10: Master the energy of change and enjoy it ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  27. 27. Summing it up: 1. Think ahead and prepare. 2. Adapt your business model and increase the rates. 3. Don’t get addicted to agencies, they’re more lost than you are. 4. Keep learning other skills and specializations. 5. Understand the value you’re really bringing. 6. Technical bits are easier than they seem. Bring your patchcord. 7. We all need professional standards as a frame of reference. 8. Invest in networks (not only financially) 9. Come together in some form. 10. Enjoy the ride! ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020
  28. 28. Thnx! ANDRII BIESIEDIN - UTIC 2020 +380963437778