Tag Archives: ITI MAT


If you look up Labrador in the dictionary there are generally two definitions, the Canadian province (Newfoundland and Labrador) and a breed of dog. The dog is named after the place, by the way. But last week I found a third ‘definition’, if you will.

I have always wondered why a pretty bay in Devon would be named after a breed of dog, so last week we stopped at the Labrador Bay car park to find out* and I learned that the origins of the name are believed to come from the French, l’abri d’or or shelter of gold. Well, that makes a lot of sense in those parts; smuggling did a roaring trade on the South West coast in the 18th century and you only have to go into Shaldon and there’s the Smugglers Tunnel. Mystery solved, or maybe not. What if (and I couldn’t find any evidence either way), the name is more to do with the Newfoundland cod trade and fisheries, a big employer at the time? Rather coincidental, don’t you think? But today, on European Day of Languages, I am going to believe that the name was influenced by our closer neighbours and the French language. #europeandayoflanguages

* We walked the coastal path to Maidencombe, but be warned, it’s VERY hilly and not for the faint-hearted or exercise-shy!

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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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