Top Language Lovers 2013: show some love to Rainy London (again!)

Red on white is always good!

Hello everyone, it’s June already!

It’s that time of year again and via the contest to find the Top Language Lovers of 2013 is here fo you to join! I was so lucky to be nominated again this year (see me in last year’s top 25 and again here), in the Facebook Page and Twitter Account categories.

All you need to do to show how much you love Rainy London and my FB / Twitter pages is just… vote!

  • Click here
  • Go to the left-hand side
  • Image
  • Go to Voting > Language Facebook Pages and click on Rainy London (A-Z order)
  • Go to Voting > Language Twitter Accounts and click on Rainy London
  • (Yes, you have to do it twice, once for each category).

Vote and you’re done! Easy, right?

Thanks so much for your always positive comments and endless support – hopefully I’ll be among the top 25 again! 🙂


A Day in the Life of… Michelle Hof

Welcome back! This month’s #ADayInTheLifeof features friend and colleague Michelle. This month, we jump into a high-profile interpreter’s life – that’s why it spans over a WEEK! Find Michelle on Twitter or check her blog here.

First of all, thanks Valeria for the valuable little peek behind the scenes you’re giving us with #ADayInTheLifeOf series! And thanks for promptly invitingme to do some sharing of my own.

MONDAY – A typical day at home

7:00 – Crawl out of bed, get the kids up, eat breakfast (which means café con leche, no solid food this early in the morning, please!) and head out the door.

8:30 – Drop the kids off at school, grab a croissant and another coffee, then head up the road to campus to hole myself up for a while in the university library. This morning’s project: flesh out some of the modules of a professional development course I am working on. I have a lot of work ahead of me, and the deadline is looming, so I had better get down to it. It’s mostly right-brain work, so I need to use my most productive morning hours for it.

13:30 – Look up from my laptop and realize I haven’t moved since breakfast. Head downstairs to grab a quick bite at the university canteen. While shoveling in the day’s special (arroz a la cubana, which counts as vegetarian if you ask them to leave off the sausage), I catch up on my Twitter timeline from my phone, call the secretary at AIB about a team we’re putting together for a job in Italy, and approve a few new blog comments.

14:00 – Back upstairs to the library. Right brain is brain-dead, so time to switch hemispheres. This afternoon’s project: Finish revising an academic paper for one of my university clients. The closet perfectionist in me is in for a real treat today, as I get to spend the next two hours dealing with comma splices and rearranging subordinate clauses to my heart’s content.

16:15 – Whoops, time got away on me again. A quick cortado and off to pick up the kids.

20:30 – After basketball, ballet, swim, supper, teeth, books, it’s the kids’ bedtime. Have used time in the car (as a passenger, obviously, not the driver) between all these things to reply to a few emails and tweet the day’s news. There is a post of mine due to come out in the AIIC blog this week and while most of the details were wrapped up last week, it still needs finalizing, so I have squeezed that in from the passenger’s seat, too.

21:30 – Guilty pleasure time: I am an addicted to The Mentalist and it’s on La Sexta tonight. Good night!

TUESDAY – A day on the road

7:00 – Alarm, kids, coffee, school.

8:15 – Today’s a travel day. Good news: the airport is near my kids’ school. Not so good news: we only have one car (a soccer-mom Dacia minivan owned by the bank), so I have to get dropped off at 8:15 for an 11:15 flight. Oh, well… Once I’ve arrived at the airport, I step into what I call my “travel bubble”, sit down for a second coffee at the airport café, pull out my laptop, and get to work. No free wifi, but my phone can act as a tether in a pinch. To do today: write up the month’s invoices, sketch out some interpreting class activities, contact those interpreters in Italy about that option, and prepare tomorrow’s interpreting assignment.

11:15 – Hello, Iberia! Keep working away at that to-do list at 30,000 feet.

15:00 – Back on terra firma and it’s time for some more waiting. Iberia, in all its downsizing wisdom, has decided to cut several flights between Madrid and my destination, leaving me with a six-hour layover in Barajas Terminal 4. Oh, well, at least their workers are not on strike this week! Lunch is some overpriced food in an airport café. Happy to report that the travel bubble remains intact and I am still feeling zen.

In between flights, I finish reviewing the documents for tomorrow’s meeting. It’s a regular client, so I know their business pretty much inside out, but still need to prepare. I also make a few more calls to the AIB secretary about Italy, BBM with my better half and send some silly emoticons to my kids as they head to music lessons.

21:45 – Board my final flight for the day. Too tired to do any more work, so I read El País while in the air. Realize I had breakfast, lunch and dinner in an airport today. Yum!

23:00 – Finally arrive at my hotel. It’s basic but acceptable, and to be honest, at this hour I am hardly in a condition to notice how many stars it has over the door. Collapse into bed. Big work day tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY – A day in the booth

7:00 – Early start today. The client has asked us to be on site for a briefing at 8:00 am, so I grab a quick coffee, hop into a cab with a couple of colleagues, and off we go to work.

8:00 – Arrive at our client’s office for the pre-meeting briefing. Sort out the booth logistics and day’s schedule and compare documents with the client to make sure we’ve got the most recent version. There’s just enough time for another coffee and a bit of breakfast between the briefing and the meeting’s start.

9:30 – Into the booth we go!

13:00 – Time for lunch. The office canteen does a nice veggie pizza, so that’s what I’m going for today.

14:30 – Back into the booth. There’s been plenty of German to keep me busy today, so I am happy. I get stuck for a second on einstweilige Verfügung, and am kicking myself because it’s an in-house term I hear all the time, but I come up with a decent solution just in time. I blame the lapse on the postprandial effect and move on.

18:00 – Back at the hotel. A quick Skype chat with the kids and then I spend a while surfing the hotel news channels while I check my Twitter feed.

20:30 – Off to have dinner with a good friend of mine who lives in town. I’m feeling tired after a long day and wishing we could have arranged to meet earlier, but restaurants don’t open before 20:30 in this part of Spain! Still, I am looking forward to some tapas and a good chinwag…

THURSDAY – Interpreting day 2

8:00 – Out of bed, coffee, taxi.

8:45 – Grab a second coffee and some breakfast before disappearing back into the booth.

13:00 – What a nice surprise: they have got through their agenda early and have given us the afternoon off! Quick, what is the most useful thing I can do with the unexpected free time? Get a haircut, of course! A quick WhatsApp exchange with a friend who knows every salon in town and I am off to get coiffed.

17:00 Back at the hotel and sporting my new “do”, I see I have some time before a Webex conference scheduled for later tonight, so I decide to tackle that to-do list. I do some online banking, catch up on my tweeting, read some blog posts (too brain-dead to draft a post for my own blog), and answer some emails. I even venture onto Facebook for one of my rare visits to that increasingly bewildering land of cat videos and clever memes. Got the hotel TV on in the background, listening with one ear to the headlines. BBM with the better half and get the day’s news from the kids.

20:30 – Run out to grab a falafel before I hit Webex.

21:00 – Tune in for a teleconference with AIIC’s Social Media team. Nice to see so many familiar faces, if only virtually. The team members are based all over the world, so there are many I have never met in person. Still, I feel like I know them well, as we are in constant virtual contact.

FRIDAY – On the road again

8:00 – Feeling a bit TGIF as I pull myself out of bed for a third day in the booth. Looking forward to the flight back to Tenerife later, even though I won’t make it home until the kids are in bed. The agenda for today’s meeting shows it will be the toughest of the three, so no chance of an easy ride today.

9:00 – Into the booth again. Sigh as I look at the agenda. Very glad I am spending this week with a trusted team from AIB. It makes life so much easier – especially on the tough days – when you know your colleagues well and have a familiar routine to follow.

13:00 – Lunch at the office canteen. Will try the veggie special today.

14:30 – Final stretch in the booth. Things heat up a bit in the meeting, with delegates disagreeing on a key point. I appreciate the resulting adrenaline rush, since there’s no better way to stay alert during the dreaded after-lunch shift (and did I mention it was Friday?).

16:30 – Meeting over! My work here is done. Rush off to the airport in the hope I will have time to swing by the gift shop before boarding (this is one of the few airports I frequent with a well-stocked section of kids’ books in English).

17:45 – Hello, Iberia! I’ve managed to pick up the books for my kids, as well as an Economist and a Scientific American for me. I settle back into my travel bubble for the trip home.

22:00 – Five hours, two flights, and a mad dash in T4 later, the taxi drops me off at my doorstep. The kids are in bed, as I expected, but at least their dad has stayed up to welcome me home. Let the weekend begin!


THIS WILL GIVE YOU ENOUGH FOOD FOR THOUGHTS! And don’t misi my #ITIConf13 talk tomorrow, Saturday, at 15.15 – join me for more interpreting stories – all-but-serious and with a funny twist!

– V.

A day in the life of… Rainy London (aka: 7am to 12pm)

Some people are early birds, some other love to pull all-nighters… which one are you?


My new series ‘A day in the life of’ found inspiration in a great @wordyrama‘s post so thanks Konstantina!

I’ll be discovering on habits and work-life balance tips of colleagues and friends, by asking them to be a ‘fly on their wall’ and know more about how they plan and spend their typical day.

Here’s the first one. No wonder: it’s yours truly. Enjoy!

7.00am Alarm goes off. The first one. Immediately tap on snooze!

7.20am Alarm goes off. Again! I eventually wake up. Getting up is a different story!

7.30am I start my digital life by checking my phone for messages: e-mails, Tweets, Facebook, Instagram etc. If something really important came through (ie. a client in the US sent me a job while I was asleep) I quickly take note and reply.

8.00am I have a healthy breakfast with porridge and my faithful espresso, one brown sugar. You know the cup, ‘course 🙂

8.30am Getting dressed and ready. Yeah, there’s a 50% chances I won’t actually change straightaway but that’ll depend. I’ll leave you with the benefit of the doubt!

I’d love to say I do yoga and all that zen business, but I don’t. I’m NOT a morning person, so stop asking yourself why it takes me so long since I opened my eyes to actually start working. Don’t ask, you’ll live better!

8.45am I officially sit at my desk and switch on the desktop. In my case it’s this – a 15” MacBook Pro connected to a 23” external monitor and an extension support for my iPad. All is synced and connected so I know that everything can be found even if I’m not at my desk. What comes next?

RL desk DSC_0499 DSC_0500

– Check to do lists. Apps like Wunderkit or Evernote or Carrot – the latter is very good as it has its own personality (and a very irritable one) so the mood swings are hilarious and stimulating. Still, not ideal if you hate being told off or are easily offended! Also, I recently had the chance to access (upon waiting list) to Mailbox – only for Gmail but very clever.

Carrot's mood swing

– Check bank accounts and/or pay suppliers if required. Sometimes it’s a good time to also chase money – which, alas, I hate doing. Most offices and people are easiest found or reached early in the morning before real work happens.

Check e-mails on my Mac client, Mail. I have several folders for several e-mails. I also have a flagged e-mails folder: if I flagged something here it has to be taken care of ASAP. If it’s the end of the month, I’ll dedicated some part of the day drafting and sending invoices. £££££! I’ll also end those e-mails drafts I’ve done the day before, if any. It is never too good if your e-mail shows 2am in the morning. Maybe I’m paranoid but some people may eventually notice those crazy hours I work at.

– Check social media plan. Am I launching a new blog post? I’ll plan how to do that on all platforms. Should I take note of events and appointments coming up?

10.00am Based on workload, I’ll start working! I try to have a healthy break every 15 min-20 min (including getting up, drinking water – I keep a 2 lt bottle next to me) and washing my hands. I don’t wear glasses (only to see from a distance) but it is recommended you look away from your screen as often as every 15 minutes to give your eyes some rest. Look outside the window, make sure there’s some distance to enjoy.

11.30am It’s my proper coffee break (sometimes even earlier, in case it’s a ‘I-feel-grumpy’ day). I would normally have a cereal or fruit bar. I’m loving Nakd bars at the moment. There’ s mocha-flavoured one!


1pm I will have a protein-based lunch and some fruit plus my faithful coffee. At this point, it’s either TV (or BBC Player) or music (via Spotify) or glossy mag to get some mind fresh air. In between, I’d get calls and some of it would be my mother 🙂

3pm Sometimes, the day can be well over by now: I may have a meeting or some chores to run, but most days I keep on working until I can. During the day, I’d be checking my social media on TweetDeck or my mobile and then save pages I’m into on Pocket to check them later on.

5.30pm I usually get ready for the gym – I tend to go at this time as the busiest hour is after 6.30pm. I have become much stricter with my food and gym and now I strive to go 4 times a week, for at least an hour and do a mix of circuit training and resistance workout, and I also power walk to the gym and back. I usually keep my phone with me so I can attend work calls or emails if I need to. I use an arm band from InCase.


7.30 home: I know for some this is craziness, but most days I’ll resume work if required (sometimes I do get last minute jobs that need half an hour to do and I’ll fit them in then. I hate waking up early (never did it in school either. I always studied late at night) so I see much more point in finishing off a job before dinner, which I’ll have around 9pm.

It’s not unusual for my day to continue after dinner too – I am always at my laptop from 10 to 11pm; sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s planning or blogging. You choose. Of course when I have interpreting assignments or voiceover or consulting meeting the day may be well different but what I try to do is this in a nutshell:

  • Keep motivated
  • Maintain mental clarity
  • Find my head space
  • Focus with music
  • Make room for relationships. In-the-flesh ones.
  • Try to clear the to-do list as much as possible. Just to create a new one!
  • Exercise to keep aches and pains at bay

If I can be healthy and productive, I feel a better person.

Of course, ups and downs are on the menu, too. So don’t believe this is strictly applied day in, day out. Sometimes you are under pressure and kill it. Some other days, you’re just plain lazy and that’s OK too. As Marie Forleo once said in her blog, ‘you can’t be so hardcore all the time’. But let’s try, right?

Again: credit to @wordyrama for the inspiration I found in her blog. 

Same old ‘New year, new you’? Maybe, but you should try as hard as you can.

I know it’s a cliché, but… Happy New Year! We managed to survive to all apocalypse-like Mayan curses about the end of the world as we know it and here we go. Back on track after the so longed-for break.

Last year I drafted a short list of resolutions – or at least, good intentions as I like to call them – and it’s time to draw some conclusions. Did I make it? Or did I blatantly fail?

  • Read more – and not only the files I’m translating! – if 50 Shades of Grey does not count, I think I can do better! I certainly have read plently of blogs and articles, so if not books, this gets a pass.
  • Listen better (sorry to those who I unwillingly cut off and overlap with my voice! I do not mean it!) – I have tried to listen more if not better. I still interrupt people half way sometimes, but I’m working on it.
  • Travel more – and not only to improve language skills or attend a tweet-up (even though the latter is fun!) – Scored! I went to Paris, Bilbao, Logrono, Vienna, Newcastle, Birmingham, New York, Stockholm, Malaga, Thailand and not only for work!
  • Have a tidy-ish office – and maybe try harder to be minimal. << work still to be done on this one. I don’t have enough time! But in the end, I did managed to reduce the number of paper by reading magazines on iPad only.
  • Go to the gym – this was my major change of 2012. I not only started going regularly, but I’d dare say very often! I see a trainer and I feel so empowered (plus lots of trousers fit better, once again!)
  • Stay in touch with those who count – I have to say, Facebook does help me with contacts. I hope I’m being there for those who need me and love me. If not, just tell me off!
  • Be positive – I do get my ups and downs but overall, I am doing my best.
  • Eat well – I am trying. For now, no Coke and less pasta are improving things!
  • Give more time to me time – I have tried to switch off even though I realised I cannot do a complete, raw, cold-turkey digital detox ie. leaving laptops and phones at home when away etc. I try to not be obsessed, but I still do love my techie gadgets.
  • Update my status – The gloom and doom is still there – and after a short trip to Italy, I see that in my face – but really, everyone has to choose what to be and go be it.

Any new ideas for this year we have just rang in? Mais oui:

  • Kiss (excess) carbs & refined sugars good bye – I’m partially already doing it as I went cold-turkey with Coke but I realised that most of my uneasiness and tiredness is due to sugars and too much pasta and pizza. So, moderation!
  • Keep on exercising mens sana in corpore sano. Trust me, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even though I still don’t entirely *enjoy* exercising, my body requires it. And i feel energised!
  • Travel even more – having short breaks helps me relaxing, as long ones totally mess up with my routine. My next plans involve Spain again (networking is amaze there!) and Copenhagen. Then, anything else clients and life throw in!
  • Speak at more seminars and events – I LOVE talking of my experience and showing others what they can do to improve. I loved the event with ITI at Westminster Uni back in October and the Language Show too. Hey, not a guru or anything here, but I’m happy when I can transfer some tips to others. And they give me good feedback!
  • Blog more – I know, I’ve neglected this space a bit but November and December have been crazy! I promise more posts, more articles and events.
  • Create a regular meeting network in London – we’re almost there! Translators and Interpreters in London is a thriving group! Join us in Jan.
  • Save for a pension – I know, all grown-up and stuff but we do have to start from somewhere, esp. as we are freelancers. Plus, it does not have to be a massive effort to start with. Another cliché? I’m not getting any younger.
  • Learn or improve a language (and work with it) – I’m a massive supporter of diversification and what’s best than learning a new language and make it an asset? I’d love to go ahead with Japanese but it’s a long shot. So I’d probably refresh my spoken French and maybe learn Polish or Portuguese, which I’ve both done a bit in the past.

I know many try hard and yet do not succeed – at least not entirely. But don’t despair: sometimes a fresh start can really make the difference – but you have to put it into a bigger picture. Set a goal and go for it, put your back into it and think pink!


So what about you? I’d love to hear YOUR resolutions! (In the meantime, this is the song I listen to to feel empowered. It works!)

Branding and corporate identity: why translators and interpreters should really think about it (aka: a ‘sui generis’ case study)

The original article was first drafted and written ad-hoc for the ITI ScotNet Newsletter issued in June 2012 – Guest Article Section. The link to read/download it is this:

(Thanks Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza and ITI)

Some minor amends have been made on the way to adapt it to the blog.

Rainy London Translations is a small translation/interpreting business ans I’ve been lucky enough to be thriving in a recession time since 2008, first in Devon and now in London. But you should know me already – esp. if you’re reading this!

Well, back on track with the topic! A small business does not mean that the scope should be small, too. Online visibility is all the more crucial in a world like this, where all is connected and users can access services and companies with one click. This is why, when I decided to start my own business, I always knew I needed an idea, a name, a brand, an identity. Your business – because translators and interpreters, after all, are nothing but entrepreneurs – it’s your brainchild. I’m no marketing expert or advertising consultant but when I had to choose the name for my new ‘baby’, I was, since the beginning, sure of a few things. It’s no easy feat, either, but that’s the starting point. 

1. Identify your business. Choose whether you want to project the idea of a field, of an industry, of a specialty, or of a quality e.g. I chose “translations” because I felt I could offer more than only interpreting (my first love) but I wanted something that everybody, every ‘layman’ would understand. “Language/s” was good word too, but sounded a bit too general and corporate and I wanted to be direct. “Interpreting” was an option, of course, but too ‘obscure’ in most people’s eyes. So translation it was. It’s up to you, it’s YOUR business.

2. Choose a name – aka: the hardest part. I had to come up with a name but hey, it took 3 long, excruciating days. Days of brainstorming with my partner, family and pretty much anybody I know (and have faith in). It was after rejecting the many bad (‘Aliperta Language Services, scarily sounding like the brand of the archenemy of most PSI interpreters!!!), the many ugly (“what about ‘Gladiator’ translations?”, the echo of my father’s appalling ideas would ring in my ears…), that the good finally came along, as a storm. My (then exhausted and bored) partner Fabio and I was hit by the typical ‘eureka moment’. Once, as a student, I used to have a nickname. It was perfect. That name was ‘rainy London’.

4. Identify a colour palette and a direction. Once you have the name, think of a colour palette. A shade you love or an evocative hue are the way to go. Maybe without going too OTT, as sobriety is always key. Don’t get me wrong, even fluorescent or neon colours are perfect if used in the right way and the right combination. I liked red or pink but I still wanted something professional and clearly remembered. And the direction is key, too. Opt for something that reflects your style, your approach. Something ‘yours’. Well, not that I’m a rain-loving or sad person or anything related to rain in any way, but I certainly *love* London (and you gotta love its rain too). I knew that was the place (or the icon, the idea, the concept) that I wanted to project to others and it was where I wanted to be. I visualised myself there and that was my inspiration. So, it does not have to be a place, of course. But as the name you go for is going to stick around for a while, hopefully, you have to like it yourself first and foremost.

5. Hire a professional designer. With name and concept up the sleeve, I joined forces with Fabio Benedetti, a professional designer (and love of my life, too!) to conceive my logo, first. You may or may not go for a logo, but in any case, choose a font for your name. That should be unique and distinctive. So here’s how we envisioned the logo to be – and trust me, it’s been as hard as choosing a name! (;;

We brainstormed on rain, umbrellas, landmarks… and other ideas that got filtered before reaching this set of icons – below.


As tweaks will be on the cards, make sure you build a dialogue with your designer and you give him/her a detailed brief explaining what you want and how. A good designer should be able to steer the wheel and adjust your vision to your desire.

6. Identity: now that you have it, use it. Well!

This is how we decided the identity of Rainy London was going to be: headed paper, business cards and compliment slips.

But you can then go on with envelopes, postcards and other stationery, iPhone covers, stickers, pens, mugs… your pick.

[Pic: RL identity]


At a later stage, I also came up with an idea for Xmas cards and linked to that, other occasional marketing material that would be also ideal to be used in Facebook, Twitter and other online profiles. So, with Fabio I developed the character “Hug Me”, now used as a favicon for most of my profile pictures on the web. It was just another way to keep the brand fresh and upbeat.

As I said that the location is always important, I thought that Oyster cards would be relevant, as the real must-have of every Londoners.

[Pic: FB + Twitter + Hug Me character as a screensaver + Oyster Cards ] 


On the side, I like coffee very much, so why not turning your passion into something you can use for your business too? Here’s how the Rainy Cups were born. And to make things more interesting, I also decided to run a few competitions on my blog, for people to get involved via twitter or Facebook to win one  Worried about the costs? Of course, these should be seen as investments but you don’t have to spend a fortune in suppliers, either: sometimes, nice things do come at decent prices, too. For the cups, I used Very wide choice and nice people.


[RL espresso cup: available for purchase here]

Yet to conclude…

BE SMASHING. The name choice is one of the most important steps of this process towards identity. So here’s an extra piece of advice to start with the right foot. A name able to draw people’s attention is always going to be remembered – hopefully for good and not bad reasons! So, have a look around and think of the logos you see. What sticks the most with you is what counts – find your way to be ‘smashing’:






I-nnovative and iconic



Hope you liked it. Stay tuned as a series of more in-depth articles are coming up!

And if you’re curious: find me on:

Rainy London Translations’ BLOG

Twitter: @rainylondon

Job offers from hell I (aka: che dio ce la mandi alta, mora e bella*)

I felt the urge to share a job offer my friend and colleague Nicoletta posted on her Facebook wall and which presumably she read somewhere or got offered herself (poor thing!) by an Italian company seeking a linguist for a trade show:

Requisiti linguistici richiesti: ottima conoscenza di tre delle seguenti quattro lingue: Inglese, Francese, Russo, Tedesca. Non cerchiamo un interprete di trattativa, ma la hostess deve essere in grado di comprendere un discorso e tradurlo per sommi capi. Forti doti relazionali, di persuasione, capacità di risolvere i problemi e gestirsi da sole, rapidità e capacità di afferrare al volo le esigenze dei clienti. Compenso netto di 70 euro al giorno.

I’d assume not all of you would read Italian but to sum it up I’ll provide the translation. It says something in these lines:

Language requirements: excellent command of English, French, Russian and German. No liaison interpreters. Hostess must be able to understand the conversation and convey the general points. Excellent communication, persuasion, problem-solving skills. Practical, quick and smart girls only. Net fee per day: €70.

I am being told the post also include the preferred height and a size 10. Some sort of Monica Bellucci, maybe? O_o


My other very good friend and colleague, Elisa, suggested we adapted this great text by @GermanENTrans (Translation Tribulations blog, aka Kevin Lossner) and send it to the client. Bring it on!

I could leave my comment but to be totally frank with you, I’m gobsmacked.



[*Translator’s note re title: the Italian translates into: May god send us a beautiful, tall, brunette]

Please do not waste our time or yours (aka: the market can eat you alive)

I was happily juggling my tons of works and errands (in these: find a new flat in London, organise the move, and the likes, to say the least) when an LSP emailed me about a job.

I’ve never heard of them but I assume they must have found me on my website, or the usual database of ITI or IoL etc. (I won’t know, as they did not bother saying).

Well, I know the market is caught in a never-ending spiralling abyss, where the ‘so-called’ *top agencies* charge a lot to clients and pay translators peanuts, just to mention one scenario.

A market where niche clients can still be found (and trust me, quality still pays) but plenty of non-trained providers are out there desperate to accept even the lousiest of jobs (someone always does).

I mean, some of them are maybe rightfully desperate (we don’t really know what they have to put up with, do we?), and the sad thing is I am sure many will also be qualified and professional.

But let’s be true: translation is becoming more and more a profession people take up just because they ‘can speak a language’ or ‘their great-grandfather was an Italian living in Australia’. I do not mean to generalise, of course but again, the phenomenon includes the following:

a)  non-native speakers working into their B language saying they are ‘bilingual‘;

b)  unqualified, untrained people labelling themselves translators;

c)  CVs embellished with fake details;

d) candidates taking up work that’s beyond their skills, just because ‘you can’t say no to work’;

just to mention some. I could go on for ages!

Back to our beloved agency, their message is probably the most aggressive request for suppliers I’ve ever seen in my career.

But honestly, on a second thought, I realised it may be translators who (unvoluntarily?) caused this.

The message seems to be especially referring to point a), above:

<This is the last paragraph of the e-mail. I highlighted in red the best parts>



Is this the new way to deal with providers? Or did our category naturally caused this?

Just a thought. And quite a scary one, as well.

Happy Friday.



THE INTERPRETING WARS (or 7 ‘wartime’ survival tips for the booth)

Ok, the title may be a bit on the provocative side, but let’s face it: interpreting is tough. And as in wartime, being prepared is everything.

After the long-talked issue of Westminster University interpreting course being closed (see something more here and here) and as I went to a conference just very recently, I thought it may be of interest to share my experience on interpreting with you.


(That’s me, in the red circle and above, in the foregound, with colleague Claudia Salamone).

Here’s my 7-tip survival guide to conference interpreting.


First and foremost, regardless you are being hired by a direct client or a translation agency/LSP, you should ask the person in charge to provide you with as much information as possible – beforehand, that is. For conference interpreting, in particular, you are aiming at :

number of participants;
how many of those would be actively needing your interpreting;
how many of those would be speaking or may be expected to do so;
programme: make sure you get it, with all the latest updates;
the SLIDES. Certainly the hardest part, but you definitely need those or any reference material on previous events, on the speakers, on the participant associations , on the topic. Ideally, slides/presentations would be available a couple of weeks – if not more – in advance and you should be given them asap to allow for a suitable research and preparation.

In any case (or in the meantime) I always try to find out as much as I can about the speakers e.g. association they work/worked for, whether they have already given a speech on a similar topic, even looking up YouTube for videos may help (esp. if the speakers are kind of VIPs in their industry/sector). The latter may turn out very handy to work out *where* they are from. Indeed, a name alone can be mischievous sometimes. I once met a Tom Green who, honestly, with such a general name, could come from any of the ex-Commonwealth countries on earth and surprise you with an unknown (at least to your ears) accent.
Note: in the end, guess what? He was Scottish O_o

If you work in pairs with the same colleague most of the time, it may be useful to discuss the schedule with her/him beforehand and decide – not arbitrarily, but rather as a guideline – ‘who does what‘. This is my code for: ‘I’d rather interpret the German speaker because I am comfortable with that kind of inflection’ or ‘I’d be happy to deal with all speakers from the US as I’ve lived there and I can handle the accent’ and so on. Especially if you are not an English mother tongue speaker, accents can be both your croce e delizia ie. a curse and a delight. Regardless how good your knowledge and understanding of the source language may be, it’s likely that a given accent gives you a hard time.

2. EXPLORE THE BATTLE FIELD (and send a mole if you can)

Of course most of the time you cannot really expect to know much more than an address of the venue you are going to work at. But a bit of research can help, especially if nobody told you any detail. Chances are a colleague has worked there already (your mole). But if you’re out of luck, check the hotel/conference venue’s website for info on how big the room is, what’s the capacity, whether the booths are there or not. This very last detail may seem obvious (how are they not going to be there!) BUT it is crucial. First of all, built-in booths are much sturdier and usually more comfortable than booths installed for the occasion; of course, the first are likely to be older, but at least you are sure you have room for work.
Why? Well, at the last event I worked at, the booth… was simply NOT there!

In short: there had been a teeny tiny misunderstanding between the organiser (my client) and the hotel conference manager. One had not been clear on the need for booths (to be installed by an external provider) while the other could not be ‘bothered’ to double-check, so when I got there at 9am (the event due to start at 9.30am) the only available space was a ‘closet-like’ room, basically a small warehouse for cables and the audio systems for the hall. It was indeed a ‘room with a view’ as it technically had a window, but… I’ll let you figure out my reaction. When you go in, make sure you see the speakers’ desk well (NOT like below)


and locate the presentation screen / panel, because you may want to watch the speech on there (especially if the speaker changes them on the go).


Provided that the booth is there (with all headphones and cables, phew!), I would never face the enemy without the following kit with me in the booth:

your colleague – always helps! 🙂

the above-mentioned slides – duly printed AND available on e-format;

a note pad – or two;

a few pens – I usually go for at least 3, the perfect number. I’d suggest to avoid feather and roll-ball pens, as they can easily smudge. Literally all over you. And you do not want your hands to be all dirty and stained in case you have to meet somebody and shake hands…

a netbook – I’ve used notebooks so far simply because they are small (usually 10” or 11”) and perfectly fit the ridiculously tiny table in the booth


Tablets are also handy, of course. My iPad works very well for this purpose but bear in mind it does not have a USB port to import data. I’m told that other models (such as the Iconia Tablet by Acer) do, but I am a Mac fanatic so I won’t go into that territory and will let you choose savvily…

an empty memory stick (or at least with half the space available) at the ready. In my experience, there is always someone naughty enough to have finished his/her slides in the hotel the night before. So, as soon as you identify them, go and get their presentation – to use it on the netbook.

Of course, a netbook is great, especially with all the dictionaries you can use. But sometimes, dictionaries do not help or are not updated. You need your weapons but also bullets. That’s why you need to ask the host/the hotel/the technician etc. for the Wi-Fi code and password. Google is always a great ally in battles like these…
P.S.: good conference venues do have Wi-Fi. Bad ones have it AND they want you to pay for it. Nevertheless, it should be free for attendees, so why shouldn’t you be counted as one? Try to bypass the problem and ask your client. How to get out of this conudrum? Just bring your own Wi-Fi dongle (I have a PAYG Mi-Fi from 3) but beware: sometimes there’s no coverage in the booth…

the technician: there must be one around somewhere. Find him/her and make sure s/he is aware of *you* in the booth. If the mike does not work or the speaker’s volume is too low, that’s the person you need to talk to – and quickly!


I’m sure the wise Romans went to war with jars of oil, wine and other nice soon-to-be-known&loved-worldwide specialties. Well, I would steer clear from alcohol (even if the buffet lunch may have some nice one, depending on the country you are in) but every good conference/hotel manager should make sure the booth is regularly getting a top-up of water bottles (see pics, bottom of the post). Usually conference staff would remove the empties over breaks but as sometimes the venue is not that organised, it cannot hurt to bring a small bottle with you, just in case.
If you tend to get hungry (I do!), chocolate is great to help you go the extra mile and get energy-high. For a coffee fanatic like me though, here’s the real Holy Graal: Pocket Coffee.


Avoid crunchy food as it can be heard in the mike and really disturb your colleague (and the audience!). If you really are ‘nut for nuts’ or fancy crackers and the likes, pop out of the booth and eat them away from the crowds.


I usually prefer to be slightly over- than under-dressed. If you are concerned, it’s always best to ask your source if there’s a dress code. To stay on the safe side, I’d go for an understated, yet smart-casual look. So, no jeans or trainers for men and no flashy jewellery and red lipsticks for women. Caesar would have said in medio stat virtus (Latin for: virtue stands in the middle), after all! Jewellery can also be fairly uncomfortable as it may get easily stuck in the headphones and again, make funny noises and twinkling. Not professional.
Another tip is: try to dress like an ‘onion‘ = wear layers to make sure you can cover up when cold, take clothes off when hot. And trust me, those cubicles can get up to truly boiling points!
I still would wear low-to-medium heels but that’s entirely up to how comfortable you feel in them, so flats are totally OK too. (P.S.:I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while and I will keep you updated…)

6. BITS AND PIECES (or Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say)

I would always carry a large (but stylish!) bag and pack:

handkerchiefs – the cold is always ready to catch you unprepared;

hand sanitizer – you never know, really! I once managed to spill the liquid coffee of the above-mentioned Holy Graal all over the booth;

pair of tights – laddered tights are beyond horrible and make you feel uncomfortable every step you take. Been there, done that;

lots of business cards – you never know who you may bump into;

mobile phone charger – for that important business call you will have to turn down otherwise;

adapter – especially if your laptop – like mine – has a different plug to the country you are working in;

cash, not only cards – if the venue is in the middle of nowhere and you are hungry (once the host did *not* provide lunch for the interpreters…) or if you need to grab a taxi, there’s not time to look for an ATM.

A little note on make-up (for the ladies, of course! But boys, feel free to try some if you wish!): I would bring a small sample of perfume and pressed powder to touch up. May be trivial for some, but it may help feel better and refreshed!


You can plan the attack, send a probe to the field and study the enemy for a long time, but you always should expect the unexpected. Always! The last event (see above) I worked at had to be interpreted in whispered mode until 11am, because the booth was just not ready yet. Again, a broken headphone, a crashing pen drive, a corrupted PowerPoint file, even a lecturer who all of a sudden changes the language of his speech (because decided that his/her English is not good enough and prefers to carry on, say, in French…).

Well, having said this: I ❤ conference interpreting and I cannot have enough of it, ever!
Even though this guide is by no means comprehensive (let me know if you have more tips to add), I hope you now are feeling even more prepared and eager to go into the booth. And remember, when in Rome… drink espresso.

P.S.: below a little gallery of real booth pictures of some of my recent assignments. Low quality for obvious reasons, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.


Running a translation & interpreting business in the UK (aka the English version of Val’s interview from

As I do know that most of my readers are not Italian mother tongues, as I promised, here is the English version of my interview at, by Aldo Mencaraglia. Pls see previous post for more info.

Interview by Aldo Mencaraglia.

By setting up a translation business in the UK, Valeria Aliperta has shown what it takes to be successful abroad.

How did you become a translator?

Following a passion that dates back to when I was little (at 12, I already had a serious fixation for English and languages in general, and spent my first 2 weeks in England, studying in a college), I decided to attend a language-based high school (the liceo linguistico) where we learnt English, Spanish and French for a total of 18 hours a week. Still in love with a language-related career, I went to Genoa and obtained a BA in Translation & Interpreting Studies. After a 3-year course, I moved to Forlì (Bologna): quoting Giacomo Leopardi’s words, they were years of studio matto e disperatissimo (crazy and desperate studying), which led to obtaining the MA in Conference Interpreting at SSLMIT. Yes, I am indeed both a translator and interpreter.

What brought you to England and Exeter in particular?

A period of insane love for all Spain and Spanish things – it’s still there, trust me! – kept me away from Albion for a while. But in 2005 I started a work placement in a London-based agency and that was enough: again, love at first sight. I went back to the UK and among university, holidays and work, there you go, it was 2006.
My brand is telling it all about England – Rainy London Translations – but Exeter came along, once again, for love: my partner has been working here as a web designer for 3 years and since then, Devon has been my home.

What is the procedure to start a business in the UK?

It was fairly easy. Those who start working here – or are willing to – need to get a National Insurance Number. Candidates need to visit a Job Centre for an interview on they country of origin, arrival date and stay, and so on and so forth. Once you are ‘legally’ registered – as EU citizen, for me it was very easy but nationals of non-EU countries need visas – the wait is approximately 4 weeks or so before you are sent the NIN. Unless you are hired by a company, you need to register (using that number) as a sole trader on the HMCR website. I opted for professional accounting services for my tax return but anybody can do it personally. Above an income threshold of £10k per year, it’s worth setting up a limited company (Ltd). Accounting admin fees are around £500 a year, whilst setting up a business with Companies House is approximately £200 (one-off payment) – all this in 2 weeks! All you need is a ready-to-use ‘brand name’ to register the ltd: mine shows the love for London and the trademark rain of the City, summarised in the London Eye icon.

Can you tell us the difference between this and the Italian procedure?

All I can say is that in Italy the paperwork is much longer, not to mention taxes: 21% in the UK against a jaw-dropping 44% (more or less) in Italy! Plus pension contributions and the likes… I would not suggest it to anyone!

Pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in the UK?

I can only talk about the pros, so far! I hope I won’t need to take this back in the near future! 

What websites would you recommend for those who are willing to follow your steps?

The ones I mentioned above and the professional associations I belong to:

Chartered Institute of Linguists (IoL)

Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)

and last but not least… Rainy London Translations

Thanks Aldo for including me in your blog!

How NOT To Become a Translator: a (useful) point of view, by Per N. Dohler (and some other scattered thoughts)

Translation- and interpreting-related blogs are more frequent than one expects, trust me: they’re just the web’s best kept secret!

Twitter has undoubtely become a life saver and an invaluable tool for doing just that: searching and be searched.

But before talking about the main topic, I have to start with a preamble.

It links up to my recent interview on Italians in fuga, a useful blog by Aldo Mencaraglia on Italians’ experiences living and working abroad – in Italian; will post a translation of the interview soon, no worries 🙂 

After only 2 days the interview went live on Aldo’s blog, I have been literally inundated by odd requests for tips and… employment. Yes, I know very well that visibility (and spam) is part of being constantly exposed on the Internet, and I always welcome CVs and enquiries, but THESE requests were somewhat ‘peculiar’.

An example? (Italics by me)

“Hello Valeria, I am an Italian archeologist (v impressed, I do think it is a though profession which requires a massive dedication, to start with) and I speak decent Spanish. I have never had nothing to do with translation before (not joking, it reads more or less like this) nor have a degree in the field, but I thought you may be interested in my CV anyway. I would really like to move to the UK and work with you, in any way you may deem appropriate.”

Apart from being surprised, I also felt terrible for the job market situation in my native country – which is indeed dreadful. Having said that, unfortunately, I don’t feel in the position to work with people based on a random non-translation-related yet remarkable skill, nor to give away tips on how to go and live abroad – because my business is, as you know… translations!

IMHO, I strongly believe that a) professionally speaking, one needs a solid university background in translation and/or interpreting or equivalent valuable experience and b) on how to move and work abroad, all I can say (apart from the usual tips everybody can find browsing the web) is that it’s something you learn on the way, while doing it (at least in my experience). Some sort of: book a flight, leave everything behind and try it for youself.

In this framework, today I happened to come across the webpage of the Translation Journal and was delighted by the post below – also mentioned in the title – because it reminds me of this ‘random-request-for-work’ experience I’ve just had to deal with.

In particular, I would like to quote a few points I have selected from it and that I consider truly essential for everyone willing to enter the translation world: 

(© Copyright Translation Journal and the Author 2003):


Appendix 1: How To Be a Translator

I am afraid more people than care to admit it have taken an equally long time and equally circuitous routes in becoming translators. If you are just starting out, save yourself some valuable time. Do not emulate our haphazard paths. Instead, proceed as follows:

Take a sober inventory of what you bring to the job. All of us—all of us!—have learned interesting things in our lives, which might be useful in one way or another when translating in various fields. But if you lack certain essentials—for example, if you are not a good writer in your native language—then do consider pursuing a different path.

Take a sober inventory of what you still need to acquire. Then acquire it. Spend some time on training first—it need not be in translation as such—specialty fields are just as important for many. Allow yourself some time abroad; read, read, read; and listen, listen, listen.

Seek out colleagues wherever you can. Good places to look are Internet “hangouts” for translators and (yes) translators’ associations. Collaborate whenever you have a chance. Edit and be edited, even if you hate editing. Above all, keep your mind open.

Think of yourself as a businessperson first and foremost. Be dependable. Be available. Be visible. Be serious. Market yourself. Stick to deadlines religiously.

Don’t guess what your customer needs—if you aren’t 100% sure, ask. If you don’t like what you hear, say no.

If you are called upon to do something you cannot do, say no. But if you do engage in a contract, abide by its terms.

Determine where you want to go. Ask yourself: What would I like my professional life to be, say, ten years from now? From time to time, calibrate the things you do on a daily basis against that overall goal.


Click here for the entire content. I thought these tips are more than worth sharing,… thanks Per!


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