Brazil conference speaker interview series: Judy Jenner 5



In celebration of the upcoming Conference in Recife, Brazil, I had a chance to interview a few of the speakers who will be presenting at this event. I will be sharing their responses here, as part of a multi-part speaker interview series.

Meet the speaker

Our first interview comes from Judy Jenner – translator, court-certified interpreter, blogger, and one of the keynote speakers for this event. Judy’s presentation is entitled “The Entrepreneurial Linguist,” which will focus on how to implement top business practices in order to better position oneself in the industry.

You can learn more about Judy by visiting the blog she co-authors with her twin sister – Translation Times.

Judy_JennerThe interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

JJ: I always wanted to have a career in the languages industry. I remember back on the school bus in middle school in Mexico City, my twin sister Dagy and I made plans to have a company called Jenner + Jenner Cross-Cultural Consulting when we grew up. Turns out we have something very similar now. I had the great fortune of landing a translation job in college, and continued down the translation path after graduate school. I worked as an in-house translation department manager at an e-commerce company for years, and finally made the decision to join my twin in our joint business, Twin Translations, years ago. It’s been a wonderful experience.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

JJ: Probably the fact that there’s no barrier to entry into our industry, which is a good thing and a bad thing. In addition, there’s the low-cost competition: pseudo-colleagues who try to compete with others, perhaps more qualified colleagues, by offering rock-bottom prices. This is obviously not a good strategy, as one doesn’t have to be an economist to know that this will hurt our industry in the short and long run. Rather than undercut each other, we should work together, professionalize our profession, and demand the prices that our services are worth.

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

JJ: That’s the million-dollar question, and we actually wrote a book about this – The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation. But essentially, you need to get out of your comfort zone and do some networking, and some of this might pay off in the long run, not in the short run. The business won’t magically come to you. You have to go out and get it, especially if you want to work with direct clients like we do. This is not easy, but no one said running a translation business was easy.MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

JJ: To not jump in without having a financial cushion. I would try to ease into the industry little by little if you can, and be sure to have about a year’s worth of living expenses saved up, as that will take a lot of the pressure off. Also, if you are interested, it might not be a bad idea to get an in-house position for a few years, although there are relatively few of these positions and they usually prefer linguists with experience. And finally: surround yourself with good people and learn everything you can about the industry. There are dozens of outstanding books, hundreds of fantastic blogs, and thousands of helpful colleagues, but you have to do the hard work. Every time you get into a new business, you are taking a risk, so ask yourself: am I prepared for that risk? Am I prepared for the possibility that this might not work out?

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “The Entrepreneurial Linguist.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

JJ: I am quite excited about this upcoming conference in gorgeous Brazil and it’s such a huge honor! Attendees will learn my 8 top lessons from business school and how they apply to translation. I will tell them what an entrepreneurial linguist is, how to position themselves in the industry, what they need to have a professional presence, and what it takes, collectively, to negotiate good rates and working conditions. There will be a raffle and other small prizes. A fantastic interpreter will interpret my speech, which I will give in English, into Portuguese for those attendees who prefer to hear my (attempted) jokes in their native language.

The event


For those interested, it’s not too late to register for the Fifth Conference in Brazil, which will take place on August 24 and 25 in Recife. The event is in a week’s time, so don’t delay! You can register directly from the event page:

I hope you enjoyed this post, and stay tuned for the next installment of this multi-part interview series.


  1. Great interview – promises to be a very interesting presentation. I applaud for these pre-conference efforts. The more we get people thinking about the conference and its topics, the more benefit for all at the event itself.


  2. Oh, how I wish I could come. I am reading Judy’s book for the second time now and the wish to watch one of her presentations or take part in one of the workshops only increases;

    I´ll do my absolute best to be in the next Brazil conference and I wish you all, who are organizing this event, and the fellow translator who are participating this year, a wonderful time.


  3. Pingback: Brazil conference speaker interview series: Débora Pereira « Translator T.O.

  4. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Aug 26-Sep 1)

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