Document Translation
The first assignment that I did of this type was an employee/operation manual of a hot pot company assigned to me in 2005. The manual set out steps for each procedure including preparation of the food, cooking and serving. I got a native English speaker who was my friend to edit the translation for me. Out of 20 pages, the number of words that she corrected could be counted in two hands. I was surprised.

After that I was requested to translate a construction agreement for a gas company. It was not so difficult as the translation was pretty straightforward, however, the problem was the terminology. At that time, I had limited experience in legal translation and the only experience in the legal field was to have worked for five years as a legal secretary at an English law firm. I was familiar with banking terms but nothing in construction. Once I had submitted the translation, there were some questions from the customer. I felt challenged as I was so confident that I did the job well. Then I realized that the customer had every right to ask questions because they paid me. I learned from this assignment that I should be prepared to explain my translation since questions would be common in any type of translation.

In 2006, I was fortunate to secure a translation contract with a government unit that dealt with education for children. I do not remember how I secured that big contract which had a value of over USD6,000. The assignment consisted of a translation of three volumes of teacher handbooks for children from year 1 to year 6 and I had to finish the assignment in three months. I panicked at first and was checking around if any of my friends wanted a share of this assignment. Back then, I was not aware that subcontracting a work required a customer’s consent but now I know (from the NAATI code of ethics). I ended up doing every single page myself. The assignment was not complicated since it was all about basic English for children. I sent in the translation on time and the customer was happy with my work.

A challenging assignment I did in 2008 was a safety manual. I could find the Thai translation of safety jargon from dictionaries but I could not understand the concept of the practice i.e. safety for work in confined spaces. To be able to translate it, I talked to people in the job to understand what this equipment was used for, what the concept of certain work conditions were etc. I learned a lot about safety from this assignment and I was glad a customer paid me to learn.

Another assignment which followed the safety manual was a fire system test paper. It was a test for salespeople for a fire system company. I was going to refuse the assignment but the customer told me not to worry about fire terminology or equipment names. All I was requested to do was to translate questions and choices (as it was a test paper) and leave equipment models or equipment names in English. A fire engineer reviewed my work. He corrected some parts but overall he was happy with it since the translation was comprehensible for people who would be taking that test.

An interesting assignment that I took in 2008 was an exhibit to a lease agreement of a residential building. The exhibit specified roles and duties of the tenants, for example, the use of common areas, management fee payments. I learned some new terminology regarding committees, board, voting. Once I had handed in my translation, the customer’s feedback was that ‘the translation was incorrect’. I asked how and the customer’s assistant explained that I transliterated the English term of the word ‘fitness’ and some other words instead of using Thai words that were already coined. Well, that was not called an inaccurate translation. It was called a choice in translation. I used the equivalent words but they were not the style that the customer preferred. When I knew what the customer preferred, I catered to the need.

The year 2009 put me out of my comfort zone when my friend asked if I could help with a translation of her employer’s documents in the field of vision care. Oh Dear! Apart from knowing how to insert and care for contact lenses that I have been wearing, I knew nothing else about the anatomy particularly an organ we use to see, the eyes. This assignment was about vision care knowledge and articles about contact lens . I learned a lot from the names of each part of the eye in Thai language, how an eye works, and what our sight was affected by. Since the subject was not my expertise, I advised my customer to edit the translation before use. I recommend all translators to always have your translation edited by a person who works in the field.

Later on that year, I was given an assignment to translate a case relating to fire fighting vehicles. I was terrified at first. I was afraid I would come across some confidential information and a hit man might be after me. The assignment was a real case. It was like reading a story and I enjoyed it as I was guessing who would be convicted, who played a role in the decision, how other countries could play a trick along with some politicians that resulted in this case. After submitting my translation, I sent a translation assessment form and then I got very bad feedback from my employer. ‘Your work had a lot of mistakes.’ said the lawyer who edited my work. However, the firm’s full-time translator explained to me that I got that comment because my translation did not match the original. My translation came in full version v.s. source text of short version. Then I realized that the original came in PDF and I had no printer so I needed a source text in Word file. I searched on the internet and found the article, skimmed through and found that the article was pretty much the same as the PDF file that I received from the customer. I was wrong. The internet file was a lot longer hence my translation was longer than it was supposed to be. The editor had to work harder in order to edit my work so that it matched the short version of the case. I felt discouraged for weeks.

In 2010, I got a new customer and they were from Australia. The assignment was the Immigration Booklet 2010 of Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia. I was thrilled. They did not tell me the reason for hiring me but I guessed it was because I undercut the other translators’ quotes. I live in Thailand. My tax rate is low so my cost is very low. I am not a greedy person. So I am happy to charge what I am charging now. One time, an American guy who owns a translation company was trying to convince me that my rate was too low compared with the market rate. I told him those reasons listed above. Still he was sort of saying that I was stupid to charge too low when I could increase my rate to be just a bit under those other translators. But how would I know how much they were charging this customer from Australia for this assignment? There must be a reason for this customer to hire someone out of the country and I believe it was the budget issue. Well, the text itself was not difficult at all but what gave me a headache was those tags that came with the source text. Those tags were like HTML editor to make sure the text was bold where it was supposed to be, a break was supposed to be where it was designed for etc. I was pretty sure I needed to see an optometrist right after I was done with the work. I was almost blind.

Not long after the immigration booklet work, I got a request to translate a freight security requirement of Transported Asset Protection Associations, Asia (TAPA). My full time job was in the security field so I was fine with the assignment. Still, there were things that I learned from the assignment. Dock Bay – how did they control it and where was the security equipment installed? Ignition Key – I do not drive so I did not know what it was. These gaps in knowledge kept me busy searching on the internet to understand how each part worked including checking pictures so that I understood how the security system fit with the parts. This translation was to be used in Thailand. I was glad to be part of the very first assets protection training in Thai language.

A second Sydney translation company assigned a hepatitis B booklet to me to translate. Given that there were not many technical terms, I quoted the same rate as for general text. The surprising thing was that my work was back-translated and I was requested to review the back-translation to see if I agreed. I was offended to see a back-translation as a mean to check someone’s work. But it was required because the text was medical and had to be very accurate. I noticed that half of the comments were relating to translation style and Thai writing norm. During my review, I inserted my comments to explain why I disagreed with particular comments. It was more like I was educating someone in terms of translation and that made me unhappy since I was paid to translate, not to teach. Well, I charged them an hourly rate for that so I could not complain. Then I learned the work style of this company – all the work would be back-translated for accuracy validation. Now I understand.

This year also brought me an assignment on a court document relating to a copyright lawsuit. One thing I realized from this assignment was that court documents of the Thai court system were always lengthy and two-third were a repetition of the very first part of the case. Most of the time, I could copy the translation of the first part for the latter part but I had to recheck everything to make sure it matched the source text. Also I am particularly thorough when it is a legal document. I don’t want the lawyer to sue me for an inaccurate translation.

I was lucky to secure an assignment on Tourism Australia 2011. I love Australia and was eager to do the translation. I travelled everywhere in Australia from The Red Center down to Albany then to Kangaroo Island, further down to Hobart and back up to the Opera House and the cobblestone laneways in Melbourne, ending the trip at the Great Barrier Reef – without actually travelling to Australia. The translation style of this assignment was persuasive, to bring tourists to Australia. I don’t have a good thesaurus and I don’t translate novel a lot so I don’t have a lot of word choices. Still, I did the job fine. I translated some of the words in an explanation form instead of just one word for the English word. It was an enjoyable assignment. And actually, There's nothing like Australia!

I had not translated corporate documents for a few years since I was moved from being an administration manager who dealt with all corporate and legal documents to be a salesperson. I was assigned to translate corporate documents and a balance sheet of an import-export company by a client in Hong Kong. FYI – we can find samples of translation of corporate documents and use them as our templates. That was what I did followed by checking my work to make sure I did not miss anything. This is called translation planning.

Recently I did a translation of a lease agreement. It was one of the most difficult documents I ever worked on. I think it was because of the structure of the sentences and I suspected it was drafted by an English lawyer given that I was assigned by an English law firm. I took this job as originally I thought it would be like those residential lease agreements or some small-enterprise business lease agreements. It was a lease agreement for a shopping mall actually. I was requested to translate from English to Thai and this work made me realize that I worked faster with translation of Thai to English. How can this be? I am a Thai native speaker. I should be more comfortable to ‘translate in’ to my native language. After I handed in the work, I visited my client at her office to ask for comments. She showed me the edited version and Oh my God!, the document was full of red lines. She told me not to worry as she, a senior lawyer, found that the document was very hard to translate herself too. I appreciate her understanding. How can I refuse a job when a customer is so lovely?

The latest assignment in 2011 that I just completed was a guideline for NGOs on human trafficking 2010 issued by Commonwealth of Australia. I had to translate 18,000 words in 10 days. I still had my full-time job so I had to plan my time well in order to finish my work on time. I did translation from 9am-7pm on one weekend and 6pm-10pm on weekdays. I spent a total of 40 hours on translation including one round of checking. I got a comment from the checker that the quality of the work was pretty good given that I had a limited time to finish it. Thank you for your compliment. However, the problem was that my client did not have a budget for an hourly rate of my checking of the editor’s comments/amendments. All 57 pagers were marked and I was trying to figure how I could go through them without charging it when I would be spending at least three hours to go through all comments. My client was OK for me to go through it quickly. But it was not because I was treating my job like other professional practitioners – regardless of a quick look or a thorough look, I am subject to the same degree of liability. So I sent an email to explain it to her that I could not certify the work if they wanted me to do a quick go through. It will be too risky for my career. I hope I did not scare the customer away.

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Sawaddee ka. My name is Nat. I am a certified translator. I have been in the translation industry since 2004.

I graduated a master degree in English-Thai translation from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

I have the following accreditation:
- NAATI Accreditation for EN < > TH translation (Australia)
- Court Expert Registration for EN < > TH translation (Thailand)
- Member (MCIL), Chartered Institute of Linguists (U.K.)

See details about my services here

For a quick quote, email your document to

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