Three ingredients to becoming a world-class translator
Episode 47: Steps to get started as a freelance translator – Interview with Irene Koukia
April 6, 2015
April 18, 2015

Episode 48: Three ingredients to becoming a world class translator – Interview with Kevin Hendzel

In this episode I have the pleasure of interviewing one of your requested people, a translator, a former translation company owner, a physicist – Kevin Hendzel. Last  year one of his articles was selected as the best translation related article through the Community Awards. Here, Kevin discusses the ingredients to becoming a world class translator and subject-matter experts.

 In this episode we discuss the following:

  • Three lessons that hold the key to becoming a world-class translator
  • The importance of becoming a subject-matter expert and the benefits
  • How to get referrals

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Kevin-HendzelAs the official translator of 34 published books in physics and engineering and 10,000 articles for the American Institute of Physics and the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kevin Hendzel is one of the most widely published translators in the English language. Kevin’s professional background includes an extended period working on the US-Russia Direct Communications Link, also known as the Presidential “Hotline,” where he was Senior Linguist of the technical translation staff.  Between 1992 and 2008, Kevin worked to advance ASET International Services Corp. to become the leading firm on all nuclear programs in the former Soviet Union before selling the company with his business partner in 2008. Kevin was the original architect of the ATA national media program launched in 2001.  Between 2001 and 2012 he served as National Media Spokesman of the American Translators Association.



Wordfinder - The Words you want, anytime, anywhere

Wordfinder – The Words you want, anytime, anywhere

This episode is sponsored by WordFinder. Find the right terminology faster and easier with WordFinder, on your computer, via a web browser, smartphone or tablet. Get access to over 120 dictionaries in 15 languages and many different subject areas. Read more at


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  1. Astrid Kompier says:

    I’m in my fourth year studies to become a translator, English-Dutch/Dutch-English, specialised in literary and legal translations. I’m surfing the web to read about the business. I used to be a teacher in English and German (2nd degree) for many years in the Netherlands. I’m on LinkedIn as well. I need practical assignments for my graduation in the near future. Nice to meet you here! Kind regards, Astrid

  2. […] Tess Whitty who owns and maintains Marketing Tips for Translators, recently interviewed translator, former translation company owner, and physicist Kevin Hendzel. Listen to the podcast to find out how to become a wold-class translator. […]

  3. Thank you Tess and Kevin for this podcast.
    One topic you mentioned, Kevin, which got somewhat buried in the wealth of good advice, was that Google Translate is the product of parallel corpora resulting from translations produced by humans. This is not news to me, and one reason I will often use GT as a first step in a terminological search followed by usage research in both source and target languages on the Internet and, more recently, in the many corpora contained in the corpus query system at
    (I should emphasise that I never pay any attention to any GT result involving grammatical constructions, because in my view GT has a very long way to go in figuring out both surface and deep structure.)
    Context of my question: The BDÜ, the German translators’ association takes a strong position against the use of Google Translate. The main reason cited is that clients’ confidentiality risks being compromised. This idea has, possibly justifiably, gained currency among a good many translation agencies. Indeed, I have signed one set of confidentiality agreements and an NDA with a reputable European-based agency which prohibits me to use GT for this reason. Therefore, for work for this particular agency, I abide by this condition, and, of course, where my common sense tells me to do so for work not bound by this condition.
    My questions: 1. Do you see such popular notions of Google Translate being overturned in the near future?
    2. Many confidential documents are never displayed or routed through the Internet, are the product of human translators, yet the results of those confidential documents (downstream material – press releases, company profiles, product specifications, financial statements, etc.) do, and often (in my tiny “little data” experience) often contain the very terminology found in those confidential documents, often on bilingual or multilingual websites, which can be confirmed by simple web searches for specific strings of words. Does this not, in a sense, make a mockery of the idea that we should “use all the resources available to us” to translate? I understand that certain things (e.g. contracts, merger/takeover negotiations, product launches) are often confidential for a particular time period, but do wish that a responsible use of GT would be allowed sometimes, if only to take advantage of GT’s efficiency at gathering such data.

    • Hi Allison — thanks for your comment.

      The reason the translators’ associations are citing “confidentiality” concerns in attacking GT is that they need a basis for discrediting it in a way that will get clients’ attention. In other words, it’s an argument from a position of fear (more about that in a minute) especially since GT is better than many human translators just starting out or working into an unfamiliar language.

      Most of the current value in GT is that it DOES leverage existing human translation on a fantastic scale. A few years ago Chris Durban did a side-by-side comparison of GT to what she got back from agencies as a customer, and GT did better than the humans on the more formal texts. Which is not surprising, since they were already translated by more qualified humans. GT was just acting like a CAT tool in such cases.

      Anyway, the concerns expressed by the association are unfounded, although I do understand (and support) their efforts to promote translators’ best interests.

      Because of the way GT operates by splitting up texts and translating them in segments — much like what happens with any email you send — it is split into a few hundred pieces and they are all routed separately through what at the respective instant is the fastest and most available electronic route and then all reassembled at the receiver’s end — you would need a few centuries of CPU time to search, identify, sort out, reassemble and then compile a translated text back into a real text. Plus, in the GT case, there is no “receiver,” it’s bounced off the parser and the engine itself. The confidentiality danger in email is not that it’s transmitted openly, it’s that it can be tracked back to you and then you can be openly hacked where people can read email intact. Trying to reassemble email when its out in cyberspace in a billion different pieces is what hackers have contests trying to figure out how to do.

      Clients generally do not know this (unless they are in the IT or Internet business) so raising “confidentiality” concerns is one way of trying to defang GT by rendering it irrelevant and off-limits.

      I agree with you that you should have access to ALL tools on the Internet, including side-by-side texts produced by your colleagues, which is often what GT is giving you. Professional translators with years of experience already know that GT is best treated like somewhat of an idiot savant, but I’d say there is no danger in using any tool that you approach with proper skepticism and human intelligence, which, after all, is what our clients pay us to give them. 🙂

      Thanks again for your question.


  4. […] vs. British English: A Marketing Issue Where can a translator find the strength and motivation? Three ingredients to becoming a world-class translator Terminology and Term – An interactive presentation 25 blogs de traducción que no puedes […]

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