Chris Durban and Eugene Seidel: The Prosperous Translator

I am going to introduce two books by colleagues that have fallen into my hands in recent years. This is not a review, as I haven’t read them all.

The Prosperous Translator – Advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee is a compilation of the agony aunt and uncle column in Gabe Bokor’s Translation Journal. The authors answer questions from translators and would-be translators. They have been doing this for many years now.

I always thought that the questions were invented by the authors, but I have been firmly told this is not so. I have also been tempted to create a spoof column in this style: I think the format has a lot of potential.

The book has a website. You can buy it from or from amazon (the latter probably gives the authors less royalties).

What I find very interesting is the classification into topics and the index (Chris told me the index was done by a professional indexer). This makes the information more accessible.

It wasn’t very easy to photograph that. I toyed with tearing a page out and scanning it (can’t be bothered to reinstall my flatbed scanner), but the pages seem very hard to tear out – a mark of quality – so I left it in.

Thus there are a number of queries on legal translation now collected together, as one sub-chapter of ‘8: Specializing’ (by the way, I find the spelling of -ise/-ize words inconsistent). Other main chapters: Is this a real option for me? – Getting started – Doing the job – Client/cupplier relations – Pricing and value – Marketing and finding clients – Pamynet issues – Ethics – Quality of life – Professional associations – Kitchen sink.

I lingered just now on an entry where the asker is caught off guard by a client dropping in and wonders what to do about the clutter. You can read this – any many more – at the Translation Journal site.

Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

I am a freelance translator with an office in my home and a reasonably successful business serving clients in the UK and the Netherlands. The other day I was caught off guard when a client phoned me out of the blue and insisted on dropping in to review a text in person (he happened to be in the neighbourhood, and the text was urgent).

It was a chastening experience—not for the text itself and our discussion, which went very well, but because my office is a shambles, with papers papers papers and files files files as far as the eye can see. I will spare you the details, but from the look on this man’s face as he crossed the threshold, I don’t think my frantic hoovering accomplished much. …

Litter Bug


Dear Bug,

Successful techniques we have observed firsthand depend on the size of your office, the size of the cluttered patch, and advance notice.

we have five suggestions (note that for options 3 to 5, you will have to buy in supplies in advance):

1. Square Up the Corners: somehow piles of papers that are carefully stacked look infinitely neater than those in haystack format.
2. Strategic Lighting: carefully targeted, this can be a big help, depending on the time of day.
3. The Green Plant/Colorful Bouquet: a strategically placed giant green plant or bouquet may divert the visitor’s eye temporarily.
4. Archives In Transit: a store of packing cases folded behind a bookcase will serve you in good stead. Should a client-intruder’s call alert you to an impending visit, whip these out and place all extraneous documents/papers inside. Tape shut and stack neatly as per Square Up the Corners (above). Explain briefly to your visitor that your archives have just been transferred in from storage or are on their way out.
5. Emergency Tape: in extreme cases—and depending on the layout of your office—you might consider taping off the cluttered area with that striped fluorescent tape they use to mark out danger areas on construction sites. Explain briefly to your visitor that there was a burglary the previous night and the police have instructed you to leave everything as is until they can get over for fingerprinting. (Let us know how this one works, OK ?). The tape can be found in most hardware stores.


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