In The Spotlight: Lee Ling Tan, Founder Of Yiu Translation

In The Spotlight: Lee Ling Tan, Founder Of Yiu Translation

Let Tan Lee Ling inspire you with her story about her beginnings, her business, the challenges she faced as an entrepreneur and what she has learnt from the experience in this exclusive tell-all.

Career Beginnings

I started Yiu Translation in 2014 after being a freelance translator for a few years. Before stepping into the world of translation, I worked in several education institutes, such as NUS and NAFA, handling arts-related administrative work. Most of these jobs required bilingual competency, and sometimes translation ability, as I often had to communicate with Chinese-speaking associates. My Mandarin Chinese has been strong since a young age, and all the work opportunities that I had been given further triggered my interest towards having translation and Chinese writing as my career. So I undertook the BA Translation and Interpretation programme offered by SIM University in 2009.

Yiu Translation now provides translation, copywriting, editing and proofreading services to both corporate and individual clients. It is common for people to view translation as a niche market. Singapore may be generally a smaller market for translation services, as English is the key language used, but as a multi-racial country with four national languages, translation, or good translation, is in fact essential in all the efforts to recognize cultural roots. Translation services will always be in demand, but because people have yet to see its value and importance, it appears to be a niche.

On Following Dreams And Passions

Unlike many other entrepreneurs who give up their high-salary jobs to pursue their passion, I would say I was sort of nudged into this path naturally. This was an option for my future career plan, but I did not intend to realize it so soon. When I was studying the translation program, I started working part time and freelancing with the mindset of focusing more on my studies. Although my efforts in my studies paid off, the reality struck after my graduation and I knew that the competitive job market would not make it easy for me to re-enter, given that I had not been employed full time for a few years. And it would be even more challenging if I wanted to pursue something I had an interest in. So, in the end, with encouragement from my husband, I decided to bring forward the plan and I started my own translation business.

Now, two years into my business, I wouldn’t deny that there were moments of doubts and uncertainties, especially during low periods when business was quiet. There is also loneliness at times, as I see my circle of friends leading lives quite different from mine. From the start, I expected that it would not be an easy path, but I believed I had made the best decision in the given situation at that point of time.

Challenges And Frustrations As An Entrepreneur

The biggest challenge would be that most people have quite a few misconceptions about translation as a skill, a profession and an industry, making it challenging for the local translation scene to grow. People think that translation does not require a professional and anyone who knows two languages is able to do it. Very often, staff members who are bilingual have to take on extra duties by being the translator. That is probably one of the most cited reasons I was given when companies were asked why they did not engage a professional translator. If you are looking for good quality translation, then having a trained professional to do it is definitely a must. As a result, translation blunders are widely seen and reported, not just locally, but globally as well. Sometimes, such translation mistakes even occur in the public sectors. I believe that people do not see leaving translation to the professionals as a necessity, because they have yet to see how much bad translation can actually cost them, especially for companies where reputation is involved.

When I have the chance to talk to clients, I introduced them to the translation industry by explaining things like my workflow procedures and how they can play a part in making translation even better. At the same time, I also rectify any misconceptions they may have, so that they can have a richer knowledge about the translation industry. Although this is generally a slow process, I believe by engaging clients through a genuine one-to-one interaction, they will be more ready to see translation in a different light.

On Failures And Lessons In Life

My biggest lesson in life would be that planning is important but being ready to accept that things will not always go the way we planned is even more important. To me, planning has always been a great part of my life; I love to plan things in advance, be it for work or leisure. Even though I know things usually will not go exactly the way I had planned, it doesn’t mean planning is not necessary. Planning ahead lets us have an overview of what is coming and allows us to minimize unnecessary hiccups. However, we must also be quick enough to deal with any unforeseen situations and not brood over the fact that things don’t go the intended way. I believe this is a healthy mindset for all of us; to be prepared for both the best and worst.

There are some of us who think that planning isn’t as important and end up facing hiccups that can actually be avoided. And then there are those who take their planning too seriously and cannot accept any diversion that comes along. Eventually, I think it is best to achieve balance in all things. This mindset has helped me along since I started Yiu Translation. I plan and have a few expectations, but if things do not go my way, I may get disappointed for a while, but then I just have to make new plans. Overall, attaining a balance in life strengthens my mind.

Favourite Quote To Live By

Dream big; set realistic goals.

If we have big dreams but we are not practical in setting achievable goals, the dreams may remain too far for us to reach. Yet if we never dream big, we may always be confined in our familiar, limited zone. I feel that it is good to have big dreams, as they give us positivity and hope in life. But to achieve them, it is essential to set realistic, short-term goals that will eventually lead us to the big dream.

Work With Lee Ling1

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Edited by Nedda Chaplin
Image credit: Lee Ling Tan
1. Yiu Translation website

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Lee Ling Tan

Lee Ling is the founder of Yiu Translation, a professional English & Chinese Translation Company in Singapore specialized in providing translation, copywriting and editing services for businesses and individuals. Being bilingual is a trait Lee Ling cherishes and she believes that good translation is not a measure that should only be adoptable by big enterprises but anyone who believes in it.

When she is not busy switching languages in her head, she continues making her stand in bilingualism by filling up her personal blog with her travel and dining experiences in both English and Chinese languages. With that, it is not easy to get her out of her home office but a cup of authentic Hong Kong milk tea usually does the trick.

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