Interview with the winner of the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize, Phil Hand Reply

Earlier this month member Philip Hand was announced as the winner of The Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize for his translation from the Chinese of Han Dong’s story ‘The Wig’.

After reading this news I felt curious to learn more about his opinion about participating and winning the prize so I prepared a few questions which he kindly replied below:

Q:  What motivated you to enter the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize? Was this the first time you have ever participated in a translation contest?

A: Yes, this was the first time I’ve entered a competition, though I’ve done an MA in translation studies and studied interpreting, so I’ve had my translations critically appraised many times.

I really just wanted to try something different. Actually, I wanted to take the opportunity to try translating in a different way – to try playing with different voices and styles, then to try editing something together to find the best possible version. But in the end I just didn’t have the time. Work was frantic over the summer, so I ended up just doing a single draft, then revising it. It was great to win, but I didn’t get to try out a new translation practice in the way I’d hoped.

Q: Would you define yourself as a literary translator? Will you add this as your specialty?

A: Not at all. I’m not yet convinced that I’ll steer my career in that direction. I really like being a commercial translator! I find enormous interest and value in translating technical, academic, legal and business documents.

But I do find the challenge of literary translation interesting, and I’ll be trying some over the next six months. Part of the prize is that Nicky Harman, a very experienced Chinese>English translator, will mentor me for that time, and help me to develop my literary translation skills.

Q:  How long did it take you to translate the story and what did you find most challenging about the text?

A: I did the initial translation fairly quickly. It was about 3000 characters long, so it took about a day. I then revisited it later to edit, but I never got to do the alternative drafts I’d wanted to try.

The hardest part was the cultural references. In the first few lines there’s a reference to qigong masters, with an assumption that the reader will have read Chinese fantasy novels. The story also mentions go, a Chinese chess game. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle these elements.

Q: How do you think this huge achievement will affect your career? What are your future plans?

A: Just wait and see, really. I’m in the fortunate position of having a job that I very much enjoy, and the flexibility to try new things. I’ll try a little literary translation. If it suits me, I’ll work on doing more. If not, I can go back to the contracts and research papers that make up my day job.

Q: What piece of advice would you give your fellow translators regarding their profession?

A: Try new stuff! There’s always a worry about doing a new thing: can I satisfy the client? Will I make mistakes? But you’ve got to try new things to find out what you enjoy.

Q:  What are the benefits of competing in this and other kinds of translation contests, beyond the obvious prize in this particular case?

A: Competitions are what you make them. Like you say, you can’t go into a competition expecting to win, so you have to be clear about what you can get out of just participating. You could use a competition as a way to try a different type of text; or to test out a new translation procedure. If it’s a competition where you get feedback on the translation, that’s a great learning opportunity.

Interview with the creator of Mox’s blog 3

Do you know Mox? He is one of the main characters in Mox’s blog, a blog with hilarious cartoons depicting the life of a not very successful freelance translator. Mox’s blog is a creation by Alejandro Moreno-Ramos, a Certified PRO full-time translator from English & French into Spanish.

This week I interviewed Alejandro to learn more about Mox’s world and to know what the creator of the funniest cartoon about translation ever thinks of his characters and the  popularity they have gained among translators.

Here is the interview with Alejandro:


1.- How did you come up with the idea of starting a blog combining cartoons and humor depicting the life of a freelance translator?

Excuse me, … humor? Where did you see any humor in my blog? I only depict the real life of a translator. In fact, readers often complain that the translator’s life is far crazier than Mox’s.

I got the idea for the cartoons from my wife. One day I saw her laughing at some silly cartoons related to her profession as a school teacher. In my opinion, the cartoons were kind of boring.
– “That’s not funny”, I told her.
– “But it’s soooo true”, she replied. “You should come up with a comic strip about  translators. Your geeky colleagues would love it.”, she added.
– “But I’m not funny and I can’t draw”, I argued.
– “So what? Just draw stick figures and don’t try to be funny or you’ll definitely mess it up”.

She was right about everything.

2.- Mox’s blog also features other characters who represent the different players in the translation chain? Tell me a little about them, for example, were they all created at the same time? Do you have any favorite characters? Which is the most popular character among Mox’s blog fans?

To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve created any characters. I just discovered them and gave them a voice.

For example, there is Bill, the ignorant direct client who keeps asking for quotes without specifying the number of words, and who expects delivery of a 200-page translation in 24 hours.

I don’t know who’s the most popular character in the blog, but Pam is certainly the one who is most despised. She is a Project Manager at a translation agency. She’s as evil as you can imagine, and enjoys inventing new techniques for turning freelance translators into slave labor.

By the way, did you know that there is a secret worldwide plot to destroy the translation sector and condemn translators to a life of misery? Few people know about this. “Mefisto” is their leader and these people are the evil force behind nightmares such as Google Translate.

My personal hero is Calvo, the senior translator who once was a young, naive translator, but who woke up to the real world and turned to the dark side when he discovered that a translation agency charged their clients 20 times more than they paid him. I wish I were more like Calvo and less like Mox.

3.-  What is the general reaction from your readers and why do you think they like your blog so much?

Freelance translation is a great profession but it can have its drawbacks. One of them is the lack of personal contact. How can you complain about or criticize your customers/coworkers/suppliers if you don’t speak to anyone during the day? Examples of this can be seen on forums, where translators are often just looking for some empathy or a means of unburdening themselves.

Mox has proved to be a good companion for translators. The feeling that many express when they visit the blog for the first time is “I’m not alone!”.

4.- Mox also has a book now. What will readers find in this book, how long did you work on it and how has the experience been for you so far? 

Basically, readers have to pay EUR 19.95 for a book which contains what is already available for free on the blog.

No, seriously, I’ve spent months of my life working on this book. Most of the content is previously unpublished, there are more than 100 new cartoons. Also, I tricked the, in my opinion, 13 best translator bloggers to each write an article for the book. These articles are truly amazing and, I believe, the best part of the book.

The feedback has been very good and Mox’s Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation has become a popular Christmas gift. Also, something that makes me especially proud, a number of university professors have contacted me because they want to use Mox’s book on their translation courses to prepare students for “real life”.

5.- What are your plans for the future? Would you like to become a full-time cartoonist?

A full-time cartoonist? I am not sure about that… I already struggle to explain to people that I do have a job, that freelance translation is a real and noble profession.

In any case, I’ll give you an exclusive right here. So far, sales of the book have been so good that I’m already planning a new Mox book, which is due to come out at the end of 2012.


For those who have never enjoyed Mox’s cartoons before here is an exclusive for Translator T.O. blog:

click on the image to enlarge

Mox’ book can also be found on books section.

You can follow Mox on Twitter @Mox_Translator and on Facebook.

For feedback and suggestions you can contact me at romina at

Best wishes to all!


Podcast: interview with Hassan Sawaf, Chief Scientist for SAIC Linguistics, on Machine Translation and the future of human translators 4

Here’s a new podcast (see announcement).

Machine translation (MT) technology is advancing at a rapid rate and this is a concern for many freelance translators. So this week I had the chance to talk to Hassan Sawaf, Chief Scientist for SAIC Linguistics, to learn what the future holds for freelance translators in his opinion.

You can listen to the interview here.

Interview highlights:

  • Have you ever wondered what the future holds for freelance translators and whether  Machine Translation will ever be able to replace human translators completely?
  • Are you unsure of how freelance translators can best use Machine Translation in their businesses?
  • Do you ever think about the challenges and dynamics of computational linguistics, and the future of the industry?

Listen to the interview and find out what is Hassan’s take on these subjects.

You can follow Hassan Sawaf on Twitter here.

I hope you like this interview.

If you have any suggestions for possible themes for upcoming podcasts you can send them to romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom.

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.

Thanks for listening!


Further reading:

SAIC Throws Down the Gauntlet for Hybrid MT

Podcast: interview with CJ Evans on the Center for the Art of Translation Reply

Here’s a new podcast (see announcement).

For some time now, I have been flagging interesting news about features and events  organized by the Center for the Art of Translation. I contacted CJ Evans, TWO LINES managing director, to learn more about the Center and the three programs it offers.

You can listen to the interview here.

Interview highlights.

CJ Evans explains that the Center’s mission is to promote cultural understanding and dialogue through international literature and translation, with programs in publishing, teaching, and public events in the San Francisco area where it is located. He currently manages the online publication TWO LINES, which has been going on for 18 years.

The center currently has three programs underway:

TWO LINES. It is an annual anthology of international writing in translation. TWO LINES offers writing from over fifty countries, giving readers access to renowned and emerging writers from around the world. Each publication is guest-edited by translator and writers. The publication features the translation on facing pages with the original and  a short introduction (around 500 words) by the translator introducing the piece and the writer and talking about the process of translating that piece. This is a translation-focused journal.

Two Voices. It is the event series in San Francisco. The program is a reading series that features international authors and translators, presenting thought-provoking literature from around the world. These events feature renowned translators such as: Pulitzer-Winning Poet and Translator Richard Howard, Mexican writers  Carmen Boullosa and Pura Lopez Colome and top American translators of Scandinavian crime novels, Steven T. Murray (aka Reg Keeland) and Tiina Nunnally. See the full list of events here.

Poetry Inside Out. It is the Center’s literary arts program that fosters imagination and builds student’s problem solving, critical thinking, and literacy skills through the translation and composition of poetry. Although this is taking place only in San Francisco, the Center is working on the syllabus to bring the program to a national level.

Who can participate in the Center’s activities? How?

There are two ways:

  • in person: in San Francisco, translators and the public in general can attend these events which are generally free.
  • online: there are also audio recordings for all the events. Those interested in hearing other colleagues talk about the craft of translating can check the list of audio recordings here.

CJ highly recommends the one  with Lydia Davis discussing her acclaimed new translation of Madame Bovary.

Translators willing to participate can submit articles to the journal (currently the Center is working on the next anthology. The center also has volunteer positions for younger translators to work in the Center’s office.

You can get in touch with the Center through its website, Facebook and via Twitter.

I hope you liked this interview.

If you have any suggestions for possible themes for upcoming podcasts you can send them to romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom.

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.

Thanks for listening!


Podcast: interview with Paula Meiss on the call for papers for 452°F feature about literary translation and comparatism 1

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

An interesting announcement about a call for papers on literary translation and comparatism was shared some days ago in the translation news section of The announcement was really interesting so I contacted Paula Meiss, who is one of the founding members, editor-in-chief and translator coordinator of the journal, to learn more about 452°F and this call for papers.

Paula explained that 452°F is an academic journal of literary theory and comparative literature. It was created in 2009 by a group of young researches and university lecturers based in Barcelona, Spain. Its goal is to help pre-doctoral students start publishing their work and also function as a bridge between these young researchers and more established ones. Another goal of the journal is to spread the results of the research in other languages other than English so the journal also accepts papers for publication in Catalan, Spanish, Basque, Portuguese, Italian, Galician and French. Once articles in any of these languages are submitted they make sure the articles are translated into English, Catalan, Spanish and Basque.

Paula also talked a little about the team of translators and proofreaders of the journal. She explained that the team is open to all translators and proofreaders willing to participate as long as they are willing to collaborate once or twice a year translating one or two articles. Volunteers can send their CVs to

Regarding the call for papers for the journal’s upcoming issue  she explained that the journal works with monographic sections and the 7th issue will be dedicated to literary translation and comparatism. Even though the journal is not devoted to translation studies, for the 7th issue articles about the relationship  between literary theory and comparative literature as a discipline will be accepted. The lines of research that will be accepted are:

a.    Intersemiotic and interlinguistic translation
b.    Translation and censorship – comparative reception of translation
c.    Literary translations and traditions
d.    Comparative literary translations
e.    Literary translation and criticism

Towards the end of the interview Paula describes the benefits of participating in this type of journal and shares some details about how rewarding her experience has been so far.

You can listen to the podcast here: podcast, 2011-10-28

The deadline for submissions is January 31st 2012. You can find more information here.

If you have any suggestions for possible themes for upcoming podcasts you can send them to romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom.

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.

Thanks for listening!


Podcast: interview with Xosé Castro on his presentation at upcoming conference in Montevideo, Uruguay Reply

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

On October 29 and 30 First Latin American Conference 2011 will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay. The goal of this conference is to provide translators with a means to stay updated on the main areas of the translation business. One of the speakers at the conference will be Xosé Castro Roig, who is a freelance translator, editor, proofreader, copywriter, TV host, semi-pro photographer and stand-up comedian. Xosé travels around the world teaching writing, translation and proofreading in Spanish. The session he will be presenting in Uruguay is entitled “Dudas ortográficas frecuentes y novedades de la reforma académica“. In this session Xosé will be speaking about common doubts about Spanish spelling and grammar translators, proofreaders and editors may have. He will also be addressing the latest reform by the Royal Academy of Spanish (RAE, in Spanish).

Xosé believes that apart from networking, acquiring knowledge and sharing experiences one of the main benefits of attending conferences about translation and interpretation is human contact. In his opinion nothing compares to meeting a colleague in person. This is the basis for building a solid foundation for a professional relationship. In his words conferences are the opportunity of putting a face to a name.

I also asked Xosé to provide a brief description on how he got involved with translation and how he chooses the varied topics of his presentations. I could not help asking him about the role humor played in his professional life and he explained that humor is a fundamental part of his life. He cannot conceive the idea of being bored with what you do and he strongly believes everything is better with a smile.

Towards the end of the interview Xosé gives a very interesting piece of advice to aspiring translators and translators trying to get established.

I feel very lucky to have had the chance to attend one of Xosé’s presentations and I highly recommend them, not only because the content is enriching and helpful but also because you will have a lot of fun. Xosé uses humor as one of his main strategies to reach his audience and his strategy never fails.

You cannot miss the opportunity to meet Xosé Castro Roig in person in Montevideo. There is still time to register for the conference in Uruguay so hurry! You will have a great time. You can see the full program here.

You can listen to the interview with Xosé here: podcast, 2011-10-21

If you have any suggestions for possible themes for upcoming podcasts you can send them to romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom.

To listen to previous podcasts, check the podcasts tab in this blog.

Thanks for listening!

Podcast: Interview with Drew MacFadyen on’s 2011 virtual event series: “Small changes, big results” (Sep 26-30, 2011) Reply

Here’s a new podcast. These podcasts are designed to provide an opportunity to hear the week’s news, highlights of site features, interviews with translators and others in the industry, and to have some fun (see announcement).

As announced in a previous podcast, the International Translation Day celebration at (Sep 26 – Sep 30, 2011)  is almost here (only 2 more days to go!). This year there will be a big celebration under the theme “Small changes, big results!” There will be five days dedicated to this virtual event — the Certified PRO Network virtual conference (Sep 26)
, the site guidance day
 (Sep 27), the Recruitment day (Sep 28), The Great Translation Debate (Sep 29) and the traditional Freelance translator virtual conference (Sep 30). This week, I interviewed Drew MacFadyen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, who is in charge of the organization of the Virtual Conferences series to learn more about the events planned for the five-day celebration.

I first asked Drew how they came up with this year’s conference theme “Small changes, big results”. He mentioned that this theme reflects their desire to provide attendees with valuable information and quick suggestions that could have big results on their businesses. He also explained that all the content and sessions build upon this theme by providing simple, straightforward information that attendees can begin utilizing right away.

Drew also provided interesting details about the Recruitment day planned for September 28. This is a new initiative that will be implemented for the first time this year. He said that there are already over 100 recruitment posts from dozens of agencies and outsourcers. During this event attendees will be able to view those recruitment posts and express interest in posts where their skill set is a match for the recruitment need. Attendance is completely free (all you need is to have a profile at; however members will be able to express interest in a greater number of outsourcers.

To finish I asked Dew to provide more details about what is planned for this year’s Freelance translator virtual conference on September 30. He explained that, like in previous years, this event is open to everyone (there will be some exclusive member-only content though).

Regarding the sessions he explained that a few of most popular trainers and speakers will be presenting content on September 30. Some of the speakers will be: Konstantin Kisin, who will present  “Negotiation, a little effort goes a long way“, Tess Whitty, who will present “Small changes to your website that will increase your visibility and bring you more business and Suzanne Deliscar will present “Be special II in a nutshell”.

There will be  over 40 hours of content for translation professionals. Some specific content for interpreters has also been added and the needs of attendees in low bandwidth locations have been addressed by providing the sessions and streams in both high and low bandwidth viewing.  So far there are over 5,000 people registered for the event, which will  make, once more,’s virtual conference, the largest gathering of professional translators of the year.

Drew also mentioned that significant improvements have been made to the platform (chat and other features have been enhanced) to make the event easier to navigate.  Anyone can participate from anywhere in the world with only a computer and internet connection!

Drew highlighted the fact that from Monday September 26 until the big annual freelance translator virtual conference celebration of International Translation Day there will be over 40 hours of presentations, panel discussions, Q&A, exhibit booths, and a September 30th savings where participants will be able to purchase software, training, membership and more at up to 50% off the normal price.

During the whole interview Drew seemed very enthusiastic about the event and excited to welcome everyone virtually next week.

You can listen to the interview with Drew here: podcast, 2011-09-23

Don’t forget to sign up for the events planned for the free’s virtual event series 2011. All these events are designed to celebrate International Translation Day so you cannot miss them! There is still time to register.

Thanks for listening and see you at’s virtual event series 2011.

Feedback and comments are welcome. You can reach me at romina at or via Twitter @ProZcom .