Round Table with Professional Translators

7th March 2018

At the Roundtable Event we were fortunate enough to be joined by three professionals who work within the Translation Industry. They were:

  • Alison Exley, who has been working as a full-time freelance translator for 17 years. German and Swedish at Newcastle University, she now translates from German into English and specialises in law and finance. Alison moved to Germany in 1991. After working for various large corporations such as Coca Cola, Guinness and NatWest in areas such as finance, marketing and personnel, she decided to focus on translating full-time and moved back to the UK in 2007. Her website is:
  • Sarah Kearsey, a Project Manager at Sure Languages ( After completing her BA in History and French, Sarah decided to study for the MA Translation at Exeter, which she completed in 2017. While doing so, Sarah took part in the Translation Business Project 2016. Her role was a Reviser in the French Team, which was the winning team of that year.
  • Natalie Soper is a translator of French and Spanish into English. She studied French and Spanish at Coventry University and did a Master’s degree in Translation Studies at Cardiff University. After graduating, she worked in a language school in Plymouth before travelling around South America for a few months. Upon returning back to Plymouth she worked for an international training company, before launching her freelance translation business, called Bellingua Translations, at the beginning of 2015. You can view the website here: Natalie also has a blog on her website, the link for which is:

Right-to-left: Natalie, Sarah, Alison

The session worked as a “Question and Answer” session, and what was discussed is detailed in the document below (the questions asked are the headings and below is a summary of the answers given by the translation professionals).

Round Table Event with Professional Translators Questions and Answers


Q&A Session

19th February 2018

For this session we were joined by Matt Burden and Elly Angelova, students on the MA Translation Studies who also studied for their BA Modern Languages at Exeter. The aim was for students taking part in the Translation Business Project to ask any questions they may have about the project. When asked for tips about the project, Matt highlighted the importance of remembering that this is not just a translation project, but a business one too. Therefore it is key to get pricing right through market research and focussing on making a project. As the teams are producing specialised translations, it is important that they don’t undersell themselves. Matt also said that taking part in the Translation Business Project was a big influencing factor for him going on to do the MA Translation Studies. For her tip, Elly recommended that students try to view their projects as actual business ideas that could work, rather than just a university project. She also highlighted the importance of team cohesion, as this is something that the judges will look for evidence of in presentations.

Thank you very much to Matt and Elly for taking some time out of their days to come and talk to us!

– Miranda

MA Translation Studies students Matt and Elly led the session

Subtitling Workshop 2018

14th February 2018

Richard ran a workshop called “Learn to subtitle – in an hour!” which, as the name suggests, taught students the basic principles of subtitling in just an hour (or as it ended up being, 45 minutes)! Subtitling is the addition of written text to a video, representing the auditory verbal channel with a visual verbal channel, meaning audiences are expected to do more work. Therefore, some cultures traditionally prefer to use dubbing or voiceovers to translate films into their language.

Richard explained that the international standards which govern subtitling change the way we have to translate. He gave some examples of bad subtitling, which can involve lagging behind the spoken words, or not staying on the screen for long enough. To avoid this, the standards state that there must be no more than two lines on the screen at once. It is necessary to time the subtitle with the audio, and use different colours, or italics and normal type, for different actors or voices. The maximum line length is 35 characters, and there must be a minimum of 1 second for every 12 characters. Typically, spoken text will be reduced by a third, with adjectives and adverbs omitted to focus on nouns and verbs. This ensures that the main message gets across, and only extra detail that is not essential to the meaning of the phrase is cut out.

Richard demonstrates how to use Aegisub

The workshop then introduced Aegisub, the subtitling software that Richard was teaching us how to use. Subtitling software allows the user to easily divide a video up into timed sections, and add subtitles for them. It also checks the subtitles for conventions of length and speed. However, it doesn’t check the quality of the translation produced; this is left up to the translator. After a brief introduction we put what we had learned into practice, and subtitled a short section of an English film (as the focus here was learning the principles of subtitling rather than translating).

Students put their newly-learned subtitling skills into practice

After we had had a few minutes to do this, Richard showed us an example of the film clip with subtitles that he had prepared earlier. This demonstrated ways to overcome common problems in subtitling, for example you can blend subtitle one with another to gain more time on the screen, or lose some stylistic detail by replacing the phrase “is not a bad guy” with “is a good guy”. He then explained that there are two ways to save a subtitled clip. The first is called soft-subbing, where the video file is left intact and you have to load the subtitle file in separately. If you want to upload your file somewhere (i.e. YouTube) or embed it in a webpage, you need to use the second method, which is called hard-subbing. This is technically complex, but means that the can embed in a webpage. Finally, Richard explained that it is necessary to have a video file in order to subtitle, and warned students that they need to be careful regarding copyright laws if hosting a subtitled video on a website.

– Miranda

Introductory Event 2018

24th January 2018

Welcome to the Translation Business Project 2018! We are delighted to have had an excellent number of high quality applications for the project this year, as in previous years. The project is only possible as a result of the dedication and talents possessed by the staff and students at Exeter. It was wonderful to see all the participants together for the first time at the Introductory Event, where project leads Richard Mansell and Isabel Santafé gave a presentation outlining the timeline and aims of the project, as well as some handy hints and tips to succeed.

Richard started by explaining that the project – which runs from Week 1 to Week 10 – culminates with one winning group, but that everyone receives a certificate of participation. The project can also count towards the Exeter Award (details of which can be found on My Career Zone). The main aim of the project is to give students an insight into the Translation Industry and meet professional translators, gain employability skills and have a practical example that demonstrates these to employers. The project gives students the opportunity to develop skills that they would not necessarily use as part of their degrees, for example the use of advertising on social media platforms.

Students are able to view earlier examples of project outcomes on archive posts of this blog

A particularly exciting aspect of the project is the involvement of postgraduate students from the MA Translation Studies course, who act as mentors to a certain team to offer advice and guidance. It is rare to find interdisciplinary work of this nature at an undergraduate level! The other roles in the team echo those found in a real-life translation business, which is just one of the ways that the project aims to follow the workflow that has been established by international standards. The talk then moved on to a timeline of events that will be run as part of the project, including a Subtitling Workshop and the Final Gala where students will present their project to a panel of professional translators.

The project has received high praise from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the College of Humanities, Andrew Thorpe, as well as numerous others from within the University as well as outside bodies. Exeter’s Translation Business Project is part of the INSTB (International Network of Simulated Translation Bureaus); a network of European universities which run similar projects. This year students will be asked to fill in a questionnaire from the INSTB, as they are collecting data with the aim of improving such projects around the world.

After Richard and Isabel had finished the presentation, students got into their teams in order to get to know each other and begin coming up with ideas for their company name and first steps.

“What should we call our business?”

It was an engaging and informative session that has left participants looking forward to getting stuck into their projects. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the next session, the Subtitling Workshop on 14th February 2018!

–  Miranda

Round Table with the Professionals

Hello everyone and welcome back!!

Last week we had the amazing opportunity to meet some of the most experienced professional translators, who not only offered tips and tricks on how to emerge yourself into the translation world, but they also addressed some of your questions/concerns and I am sure that this event was much appreciated by everyone.


Among the professionals, we had the MA Translation graduate from Exeter University, Matthew Bird, who currently works at Sure Languages and therefore was able to offer an overview on the translation agencies. In terms of free-lancing, Natalie Soper accompanied us, along with Lisa Simpson and Alison Exley, the last two having gathered more or less 20 years of experience in the translation area.


Having said that, here are some of the tips and advice they offered, everything drawn from their very own experience:

  • Get a job in the area that you are interested in, in order to gain some insight information and only then go ahead and become a translator
  • Travel a lot, if possible move abroad to get accustomed to the culture and traditions-this will lead to a more accurate translation in/from that certain language
  • Do NOT be afraid to contact direct clients through phone rather than e-mails
  • ALWAYS be positive
  • Look professional in the e-mails that you send
  • Create your own website- it makes you look reliable and committed to your work

In conclusion, it turned out to be a very fruitful afternoon, which I am sure aided you in making some more steps towards a bright future translation career. Also, here is one of the websites recommended on that day:

Looking forward to seeing you again at the Final Gala! All the best! 🙂 17035247_1327942620605050_1022205024_n


The Translation Business Project is back!!!

Exeter AwardYes, The Translation Business Project is back and we have very exciting plans for the 2017 edition!

The project will start in the first week of term 2 with an introductory event and will run until week 10, when our final gala will take place.

This is what previous participants say about this project:

‘It’s been great fun and an incredibly worthwhile and enriching experience!’

‘I actually spoke in detail about this project in a graduate scheme interview I had the other day, so it has been very useful in that respect!’

‘Really enjoyed it from start to finish. Great to see how a translation business would work, to get the chance to hear from professional translators. Would do again!’

‘It was a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience to see the project grow week by week, culminating in the final presentation during the gala.’

‘I was constantly thrilled about developing my team’s translation project, every step taken was a reward in itself!’

‘This project has been great to develop my leadership skills. It’s rare to actually be put in real life situations where you have to jump in and find the balance between trustworthiness, friendliness, and problem solving outside of a working environment. I have discovered aspects of business life which have not been part of my taught programmes, and I find it very empowering and stimulating to have had so much responsibility as well as the opportunity to learn so much!’

Don’t miss this excellent opportunity!
To get involved please follow this link



TPB2016 Students’ Work

Here are the amazing projects that the students of the Translation Business Project 2016 have created. Very impressive work!

FRENCH TEAM (Winning team)

Timothy Halliday, Stephanie Harrison, Sarah Kearsey, Rachel Kinton, Paul Rota and Michael Sole.

A company specialised in translating blogs. Check their website and Facebook page.



logo comida

John Brannan, Adam Carpenter, Rebecca Grey, Rachael Harding, Adam Hill and Fiona Potigny.

A business with a focus on the food market. Check their website and Facebook page.



Radicibus Translationsad3b36_adf8f41612df4bca96f7adec004d4afa

Katy Barker, Katharina Becker, Rachel Belsham, Megan Bleasdale, Thomas Hopkins, Hayley Johns and Sophie Prichard.

A company specialised in German family history documents.

Check their website, Facebook page and their Prezi presentation.


Russian team logo

Grace Eccleston, Marie Krebs, Neil McCallum and Josie Rogers.

This company specialises in the education, culture and tourism sectors.

Check their website, Facebook page and their Prezi presentation.



Chineasy and Chineasier 

Sikchi Lee, Hana Tsunoi and Samson Wong.

This company developed a live translation App to help travellers visiting China.

Feedback from our judges

Thanks to everyone who has taken part in the Translation Business Project 2016 and to those of you who came to our final gala event. We all had a fantastic time hearing about all the superb projects that our students had been working on for the last two months. As in the two previous years, we had the pleasure to have our professional translators Cathy, Alison and Lisa with us acting as judges and here are their valuable comments – Thanks!

Once again, it was a real pleasure to judge the presentations in the Student Translation Business Project. From past experience, we knew it would not be easy to choose an overall winner and it has to be said that this year, standards were the highest we have seen yet. In the end however, one group did stand out for its across-the-board performance. Congratulations to the French team and Blogmondial!

You will find some more specific feedback here but first some general observations.

All teams were very professional and had clearly understood that there is more to translation than simply replacing words between languages. It was good to see you considering how your translations would be used and interesting to hear how you had overcome a range of translation-specific issues. It was also evident that teams really had worked as teams with everybody contributing and supporting each other. As ever, we were bowled over by the work and creative thinking you had put into your projects.

If we were to pick one area that could have been improved upon it would be the whole issue of calculating rates and profit margins and, hence, overall pricing. It is so important to remember that translation is a service not a commodity, and pitching low is not sustainable in the long term. Admittedly, this is a tricky area that many established translators struggle with, but if you have a great service, there really is no need to sell yourselves short.  You should also be aware that although there may appear to be “norms” with regard to pricing in some market segments, there are no “industry standards” and many clients are prepared to pay very well for a top quality job.

We hope that everyone who took part in this project has found it a worthwhile exercise. It was heartening to see your enthusiasm for foreign languages, but the skills you used here are also relevant to many other professional areas.  All the very best for the future!

Alison, Cathy and Lisa

Judging Criteria

With just over a week to go until the final gala , one of the judges themselves gives us an insight into what exactly they’ll be looking out for…

We are looking forward to coming back, for a third year, to judge your presentations at the student translation business project gala. From previous experience, we know that the teams will be putting a tremendous amount of thought, work and creativity into their projects. It is always a pleasure to see the final translations, but don’t forget that we are also judging the business aspect of your work.

Here is some more information about what we will be looking for on the day:

Understanding of the translation process in a working situation:  what was the purpose and meaning of source text and what is the purpose of your target text? What specific translation issues did you come across and how did you go about resolving these?

Translation industry awareness:  what research did you carry out into the translation industry? How have you gone about costing and pricing your translations?  What information have you included in your invoices?

Entrepreneurial skills: by this, we mean general commercial awareness, marketing strategy, professional use of social media, etc

Transferable skills: here, we will be looking for evidence of teamwork, time management, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Overall presentation skills: are your presentations well structured? What visual aids have you used?  Have you demonstrated clarity of ideas and effective communication skills?

And finally…

The viability of your business models

Best of luck to all the teams.  See you on March 16th

Cathy Dobson