ITI MAT Tourism Workshop with Oliver Lawrence in London

*Update: was sorely tempted to ‘borrow’ the National Geographic Traveller magazine at the dentist’s as there was an article about Paris 😉

I recently made my way down to Imperial College London for my first ITI MAT workshop on tourism; my Masters dissertation topic was tourism translation so it’s a field of particular interest which I’m still trying to break into…

The workshop was in two parts – a presentation by Oliver Lawrence, an IT to EN translator and copywriter, followed by a panel discussion including Charlie Gobbett, Isabel Brenner, Alison Hughes and Oliver.  The workshop was really interesting but 5 questions (see below) in Oliver’s presentation stood out as being most relevant for a fledgling tourism translator such as myself and I decided to analyse these in this blog. I’ve included highlights of the data Oliver provided at the end of this post after I’ve summarised the findings which were most significant to me.

The presentation was based on a survey that Oliver had sent out specifically to tourism translators in order to fill gaps in his knowledge and learn from other translators in a systematic, rather than ad hoc way (article in the ITI Bulletin soon). His sample size was 73 and he received 37 responses. Questions covered areas such as the type of texts translated and how often translators travelled, to whether translators write for travel publications and have Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills.

The 5 questions:

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
Summary of findings

I was rather relieved to learn that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a background in tourism – you know how important it is in some industries to have proper work experience or a degree in that field – but seemingly for tourism translation it is not the case. My previous work experience, which involved communicating with a range of different clients, means I’m already used to tailoring my writing to different audiences and this should help.

On the other hand, I did find it a bit worrying that there aren’t any surefire things I can do to find new clients since many translators said they rely on word of mouth and being found – but I’m networking at events and online and I can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter etc. As for sales arguments that work, I had intended to approach badly translated websites (my Masters dissertation revealed that many tourism websites do not fulfil their ‘persuasive function’ in terms of promotional tourism language and webstyle) so I was disappointed to find that this tactic tended to yield little success. But it’s not all bad! By changing the slant of my ‘cover email’ to demonstrate the ‘benefit’ of using me (a professional translator)  such as avoiding losing customers, rather than highlighting ‘features’ such as my good writing style I should pique their interest and possibly gain a customer.

In terms of the main skills, some of these can be self-taught and naturally good writing and copywriting skills are paramount – I’m glad then, that I went on the German Network’s copywriting workshop a couple of years ago!  I was concerned that knowing industry specific terminology would be a high priority but it seems it’s more important to have good knowledge about places and be enthusiastic about learning more about them or new places, as well as knowing how to quickly research the things you don’t know. For a naturally curious person (aren’t all translators anyway?) it’s no problem!

I must say that I was surprised that in this field it’s client demand which has helped translators develop their specialism. I really thought it would be more down to people’s love of particular tourist destinations or types of holiday that would motivate them to learn more about them and thus become an expert. I lived in Paris for a year and love it there, so there I was checking off  some of the skills-needed boxes above and thinking I could translate tourism literature on Paris…now I ‘just’ have to find some clients who need their Paris brochure translated into English!

Whilst I was at the presentation, I had already started a list in my head of what I could and should be doing to improve my chances in this field, but the results from Oliver’s survey gave me more ideas for CPD and resources beyond Wikipedia 😉 although I will resist the urge to ‘borrow’ any glossy travel magazines from the dentist’s next week! :)

The workshop was well worth attending and has given me the confidence that I can become a specialist in the tourism translation field: my previous experience covers some of the essentials and I can always teach myself anything else! Of course, it was also lovely to meet and put faces to people I otherwise only know from ITI forums. I really enjoyed the networking with (new) colleagues so many thanks to Alison Hughes for organising. The venue was convenient too and I got a gluten free lunch :) just sorry I couldn’t have the famous ‘macarons’!

Brief headlines from the survey data

Sample size:73

Responses: 37

Number of respondents to a question/comment shown in brackets

  • Have you worked in the travel industry, and has this helped?
    • No, not worked in th travel industry (20)
    • Travel industry experience has helped with: what’s important for clients & tourists; in-depth knowledge of market and trends; corporate communications
    • BUT one respondent commented that they thought it would’ve been a bigger selling point
  • What do you do to find direct clients?
    • Nothing /  they find me / word of mouth / referrals (21)
    • Email / direct mail (11) – postcard campaign; mass mailing; cold mailing to badly translated websites
    • Tradefairs /networking / blogging /website
    • Limited success actively marketing self : contacting badly translated sites; trade fair leads came to nothing or opposite language direction needed
  • What sales arguments do your clients find persuasive?
  • Features
    • Don’t actively sell (9)
    • My experience (6)
    • Quality (5)
    • Good writing style / creativity (5)
  • Benefits
    • Improve client’s business  / increase and attract more and avoid losing customers  (5)
    • Recommendations and examples of work (4) 
  • What are the main skills that a travel translator needs?
      • Excellent writing (12)
      • Copywriting (12)
      • Creative thinking (moving away from the ST but keeping flavour (11)
      • Effective research away from just the ST (7)
      • Also subject / terminology knowledge; enthusiasm about learning about new places etc.; adapting to target audience (need cultural awareness) 
  • How did / do you develop your specialisms?
    • Client demand (12)
    • Previous experience (4)
    • Personal interest  (2) and personal reading / location
  • What kinds of CPD do you do for travel translation?
    • Reading online travel articles / blogs / newsletters / Facebook posts for destinations / tourist boards, tour operators or expats (23)
    • Travel / country magazines (22)
    • Travelling (keeping eyes open to soak up translations) (19)
    • Collecting leaflets and brochures when on the move (“stealing glossies from the doctor’s surgery”) (10)
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ITI WMG Workshop, AGM and TweetUp

Last Friday I attended the ITI West Midlands Group Translation Workshop and AGM at Aston University. Who said that AGM’s are dry and boring?!

The day was lively with a festive atmosphere, possibly due to the partial eclipse (thanks Emmanuelle Jeannot for letting me have a look through your glasses!) but probably more to do with the opportunity for networking with (new) colleagues. The French translation workshop I joined tackled a song, idioms and a tourist brochure – fascinating! To finish off the day, Lloyd Bingham of @tweetoutwest organised a TweetUp with a few drinks at Bacchus Bar, a lovely bar on one of Birmingham’s oldest streets. A great find!

Many thanks to the organisers, Juliet Hammond-Smith and Charlie Gobbett, for such an enjoyable and interesting event, looking forward to the next one!

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The Art of Marketing

I recently attended an ITI German Network event in Birmingham to learn the ‘art’ of marketing. Rachel Goodchild (@RachelGoodchild) presenting, taught us all about the worlds of Twitter and Blogging. Being completely new to Twitter, this was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t see the point of Twitter previously – other than for sending cute cat pictures to your friends, that is! And apparently, that’s allowed (occasionally) even if you’re only using Twitter professionally; it shows you’re human :) (but I don’t think that’s a licence to talk incessantly about a certain singer and her tour, do you?!).

If you’d like to read more about using Twitter and blogging, both Kari Koonin ( and Elisabeth Hippe-Heisler ( have written excellent reports on the event.

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I finally took the plunge and got myself some translation memory software! Thanks mainly to the special offers during the virtual conference which I attended this month…..I ummed and ahhed about which to get, but in the end I preferred MemoQ – it’s easier on the eye IMHO and that matters a lot when you spend hours staring at a computer screen each day! :)

Now to learn all the clever tricks and features……!

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The Library of Birmingham preview!

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the new Library of Birmingham as part of a preview day. I had a brilliant time and spent way longer than the requested two hours wandering round! I even got to go on a tour to the Shakespeare Memorial Room on the top floor too. If you ever used the old Central Library, you would probably be as excited as I was about the new library! It is fantastic inside and the working areas are bright and airy, a complete contrast to the old library…..Unfortunately we were asked not post any of our photos of the library #savethesurprise, but I figure no one will complain about the books I found myself standing next to by sheer coincidence!! Think I may start working from the library a day a week instead of from home! :)2013-08-23 11.19.01

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Recent projects

Translation of two press releases for a mobile phone accessories company (DE-EN)


* and a further three for the same company! It was exciting to see them online too 😉

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