How communication in translation changed

The first e-mail was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971 between two old-school computers placed next to each other. Now we can send virtually everything through the Internet, and we will witness 3D printers come. It’s been only 40 years, and it brought on a true revolution in communication, also for translators.

Some of us still remember these days when translations were posted (yes, posted!) and you had to carry bulky packages to post them abroad for hefty fees. Does anyone do that now? Anyone? Well, the Internet changed the way translators work in almost every aspect, and perhaps in communication most significantly.


It all started with e-mails. At the beginning, you could only use plain HTML – no attachments yet! But how great it must have been to type your questions instead of making expensive calls or faxing them, and getting prompt responses! Not to mention all the improvements which were introduced by the possibility to attach files. Sending source and target texts between a translator and a client finally ceased to be a serious translation problem!

Mailing lists

In a way of natural evolution, e-mails then allowed people to create mailing lists that collected messages on one topic and allowed participants to send and read all posts within a newsgroup. That was perhaps the first occasion when translators worldwide discovered that they are not just endangered species and started to communicate with each other. Plenty of mailing lists are still in use and allow to exchange views, links, and solve problems. You can join some of them through Yahoo Groups in here:, while other groups may be by invitation only.

Chat groups

Do you remember first chat applications, such as IRC? They were the first to introduce real-life communication with others via the Internet. You could actually hold live conversations with translators from all over the world! Amazing, isn’t it? Well, IRC died when social media emerged. Were chats used by translators at all? After a bit of research we found out that they were, indeed. Have a look in here and relive the history!


Can you imagine life without skype? It all started in 2005 with 74 million user accounts. In 2009, skype had 521 million registered accounts. Impressive growth! How do translators use skype? It seems to be the most convenient and reliable way of communication with Project Managers and clients. In Websites for Translators we offer all our clients a complimentary 30-minute skype conference, during which we can see and hear each other. It definitely allows us to be closer to our clients and to better understand their needs.

Social Media

With Facebook, we all started to share everything and anything about ourselves. We can chat, we can join groups, we can comment and exchange. Type in “translation” in Facebook search box and you’ll have plenty of groups and pages to follow! Facebook allowed translators to connect with their colleagues and share their interests. Some of our favourites in translation include:
Translator Fun
European Society for Translation Studies
The Interpreter Diaries
Lingua Greca.

In our experience, Twitter and LinkedIn mostly allow for communication with people we don’t know yet. And Twitter is a great platform to hold chats as well, such as #xl8SMM or #IntJC, with professionals from all over the world. Such a wonderful thing!

Google Hangouts

The newest toy from Google! You can have a video chat, instant messaging chat, or even watch YouTube videos together with your circles! And it’s not only one-to-one, you can invite more people to join your hangout. We haven’t tried it yet, but we are quite enthusiastic about it! If you’re interested in seeing Google+ Hangouts in action, we suggest finding out more about #IntJC The Interpreting Journal Club.

So we’ve moved from posting translations and expensive overseas calls to viewing other translators we met online live on-screen. Quite a change in the way translators communicate with clients or with each other, isn’t it?

Written by Marta

A Polish English translator and interpreter, she helps freelance translators kick off their careers and she also assists companies in growing their translation businesses. Visit her at


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