People who rock the industry – Marta Stelmaszak

We’re delighted to announce a new series: “People who rock the translation industry!”, in which we will be interviewing people who have made a positive contribution, no matter how small or large, to the translation industry – at the international, national or local level.

The obvious choice for the first installment in this series would be an interview of colleague Marta Stelmaszak, who is a true rock star when it comes to helping freelance translators embrace their business skills and abilities. An added bonus is that Marta is also taking part in this series as an interviewer – we will both be interviewing amazing people and colleagues, and the interviews will be shared between this blog and hers (Wantwords) at the rate of two per month – one monthly on each blog. Here on the Stinging Nettle, all interviews will be under the newly created “Rocking the industry!” category, under “Articles in English”.

If you know someone who rocks the industry, contact us!

Enough chit chat. I will now leave you to enjoy Marta’s interview, the first in the series, and find out all about the amazing job she’s doing!


Hi Marta! Tell us about you. Who are you?

Most of the time I’m a translator and I translate between Polish and English law, IT, marketing and business. Quite often I’m an interpreter and then I interpret legal and business matters. Sometimes I’m also a communication consultant, and then I work on intercultural aspects of doing business. From time to time I present and give talks (most often on using the Internet in the languages industry), or even write articles and publications (on social media or effective CVs – links). In addition, on some occasions I’m a business consultant in the industry – I’m a qualified business mentor and a member of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs.
When I’m not doing these things, I’m active as member of the Management Committee of the Interpreting Division at the Chartered Institute of Linguists and a co-head of the UK Chapter of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters. I’ve been voted a Top 17 Twitterer (@mstelmaszak) and Top 20 Facebook Fan Page (WantWords) in Language Lovers 2012. I run the Business School for Translators and I’m sharing the spirit of freelancing and having a successful business.

At the same time, I’m trying to polish my Norwegian and I’m saving for a wooden house by a fjord.

Tell us a bit about your background and career so far.

I grew up in a monolingual family, but I started learning English when I was about 7. I always wanted to do something with languages, and communication was my passion. I started a degree in Warsaw , but it wasn’t the right time for idealists, so I decided to leave it and move abroad. I went to Norway and only there did I realise that I could fulfil all of my dreams, even those that I thought would never come true. I started transforming these dreams into plans, and I finally moved to London to do my degree in translation. And that’s how it all started. I’ve been a translator and interpreter since I can remember, and I had only short periods of working for others. Everything I do makes me believe that having my own business, whether as a freelancer or a small company, is the best choice for me.

You founded your famous “Business School for Translators”. What is it exactly?

Careers in translation or interpreting most often involve regular academic training. We have to spend a few years studying translation theory, honing our skills, or practicing in a booth. It is of course essential to master the theory and the practical skills. But when we graduate and get our diploma, we don’t always know how to start using our skills in the real, professional life. We hardly ever possess any business knowledge of the industry, and scarcely anyone knows how to earn money doing what we love and have been taught.

Over the years, I learnt a lot about the industry by myself, and I also developed my background in business and entrepreneurship. At one point of my career I decided that I wanted to share this knowledge and experience with other translators and interpreters. The Business School represents the idea that we’re all small businesses and entrepreneurs and it’s the way of spreading this notion amongst colleagues in translation and interpreting.  In other words, everything I do under the heading of the Business School for Translators is to encourage my colleagues to think business and to help them develop as mini entrepreneurs. I write a blog, I share publications, I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, and I organise Google+ Hangouts.

Where did the idea of the business school come from?

There are some bits of business training that our universities never give us and they turn out to be essential in becoming a successful, money-making translator. A few lessons on the practical knowledge of the industry would help, just to know how it is doing, where it is going and what are the areas worth looking at. Basic tax and legal knowledge, whilst certainly outside of the translator training scope, could be at least mentioned and some resources could be identified. Basics of marketing definitely should be a part of the curriculum. And where’s the module on financial management? We are also not taught that there is a wholly different pool of skills we will need out there: communication, pro-activeness, responsiveness, stress management, self-discipline, and negotiation… these areas are essential to working in translation or interpreting!

I used to rock from the early years!

You’re also part of the Websites for Translators team. What do you guys do?

I helped with setting up the company and with initial development. Then Meg took over, and she’s now delivering great websites, logos and business cards to translators and interpreters all over the world. The team believes that every freelancer is in fact a small business, and that’s why investing in marketing and promotion is essential. Websites for Translators aims to empower translators and interpreters to uphold the professional standards, find more clients and never have to lower the rates.

If you do have free time (do you?!), what do you enjoy doing?

At the moment, I’m studying and researching forensic linguistics. I’m particularly interested in guilt lost in translation, but I’m also quite into researching the language of social media. Do we write or talk on Facebook? Is Twitter more similar to written or spoken language? How does the character limit influence our syntax? These are some of the questions I’m trying to deal with while not working. I’m also thinking of taking up martial arts and organising a TEDx on languages and translation.

What do you think the future of the translation industry looks like?

Exactly the way we will make it. I don’t believe in these menaces of post-editing or machine translation replacing human translators. I don’t believe in Google Translate becoming equally accurate as humans. I don’t believe that huge companies will create translation memories able to automatically translate all documents. I believe in us, real translators. We have enough strength, dignity and courage to take a stand and fight for the profession. We’re also crazy enough to rock the industry.

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About Anne

French native professional translator for English and German specialized in medicine, BDÜ member, former ProZ.com staff member and Translator without Borders contributor, Anne works at GxP Language Services (parent company of the Alexandria project). Co-founder of the Alexandria project and organizer of the TriKonf Conference, she also specializes in online presence with a soft spot for LinkedIn marketing, WordPress.com and search engine marketing. An experienced translation industry trainer and speaker in those matters (over 50 seminars, training sessions webinars and industry conferences presentations delivered) and regular author (Social Media Today, LinkedIn & Business magazine, BDÜ’s MDÜ…), she’s already helped hundreds of freelance translators & LSPs with their online presence. Anne is also an experienced language industry conferences organizer (24 industry events organized/managed to date).

27 thoughts on “People who rock the industry – Marta Stelmaszak

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