Building your business through your network

While it doesn’t come naturally to all, it really is worthwhile: I have recently discovered that most of my work comes in from word of mouth, both from my personal and professional networks. During a recent meeting of the Eastern Special Interest Group (SIG), I discussed this with 3 other SIG members. We tried to assess the degree to which our work comes in through word of mouth and to put a name to those mouths.  In other words, which categories of our professional and personal networks work best in bringing our services to our clients’ attention?

To take this a step further I will be asking SENSE freelancers to complete a short survey about how their work comes in. The results of this survey will be presented during my short conference session.


About the facilitator

Sally Hill is a British biologist and edits scientific manuscripts and teaches scientific writing. She also translates from Dutch into English and does the odd bit of writing.

Sally started off her career in science. After completing her masters and spending 5 years in a molecular genetics lab, she realised she didn’t want to be a researcher after all and turned her hand to teaching: she taught biology at secondary schools in both Dutch and English. But after 10 years, she decided that teaching wasn’t for her either and took the plunge to give up the day job and start out as a freelance translator and editor in 2008. She hasn't looked back since!


Keeping your clients happy

Finding new clients is always a challenge. Keeping existing clients is just as important. The simplest way is to keep them happy and give them what they want, without compromising your standards - or your rates. This presentation - though related specifically to the translation business – is just as applicable to other language service providers because let’s face it, a client is a client…

Running a translation business in 24 languages my company has many different types of client, each needing a different approach.  ‘One size fits all’ is not an option, but it’s surprising how easy it is, with a little imagination,  to ensure that your clients won’t dream of going anywhere else. Based on personal experience, an open mind and a sleeve big enough to hide a few tricks up, I will try to give some tips so that when you finally get that new client, you won’t lose them after the first assignment.

A little bit of software goes a long way and I will explain how we use a very simple system to make it so easy for the client to keep sending us work. You can even have a free version to try it out for yourself.


About the facilitator

 Nigel Saych is the owner and director of Interlex Language Services, a translation company he started 11 years ago with just one client and one language pair. Although the company has grown to an organisation using almost 100 freelance translators, he still has that original client and still spends most of his time translating, not managing offices. He has given presentations at many conferences throughout Europe, delights in being a maverick and firmly believes that creativity is more effective than entrepreneurship. 

Yoga at your desk

“Sitting is the new smoking”. Most of us have heard this by now, but many of us are still condemned to working at a desk, sitting in a chair. This short workshop will allow participants to do some simple yoga exercises to counteract the destructive effects of sitting, from their seats, or more accurately getting out of their seats in a “pretend” office environment. It will not require special clothing or equipment, but on the contrary is geared to an office setting where people may be wearing non-optimal clothing and have limited space and nosy colleagues. In addition, we will use objects like the chair and desk as aids. 

Why yoga? 

1. It involves the breath, which helps reduce/avoid stress. 

2. It aids circulation to cut-off areas

3. It strengthens muscles weakened by sitting and other bad habits, and stretches tight ones.

Participants will be taken through a number of poses that help shoulders, neck, back, hips, “core” (abdomen and sides) and legs.

About the facilitator

American-born Anne Hodgkinson has been a translator/editor since about 1998. She discovered the physical and mental benefits of yoga about fifteen years ago, and got a yoga teaching certificate in 2012. Somewhat high-strung by nature, she finds the physicality and social interaction of yoga teaching the perfect antidote to working alone at a desk.

Treadmill desks for translators: the scientific background and my personal experiences

For about the past four years, I have been using an adjustable-height desk and walking on a treadmill for much of my working day. In this talk, I will share my experiences and discuss the benefits of a treadmill desk, the history of the trend, practical issues, reasonable and unreasonable expectations, online information sources, and the brands and models available in the Netherlands. I now use a treadmill designed for placement under a desk, but I started out by modifying an inexpensive, general-purpose home treadmill so that I could use it under my desk; I’ll discuss the relative pros and cons of these two options. Information on benefits will be drawn from books by James Levine, MD (Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University) and other researchers: they include not only better health but also increased energy and concentration and a better, more stable mood throughout the day. The possible impact of walking on mental health will also be discussed. Material from a New Yorker article on treadmill desking by Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief) and the humorous essay “Arse-bestos” by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson will be presented. I will touch on the issue of compatibility with speech recognition and other ergonomic aids and briefly compare treadmill desks with under-desk exercise bicycles, and possibly with other alternatives.

Stop sitting on the problem!

The main purpose of my presentation is to provide some insight into the knowledge and skills required for good posture and movement during the working day through raising awareness of habitual posture, movement and behaviour. I will start the session with a PowerPoint presentation during which I will tell the audience something about posture, ergonomics and movement while working at the computer.  The concept of good posture will be supported by anatomical images and I will spend a few minutes giving a short explanation of the relevant anatomy of pelvis and vertebrae and muscles. I will talk about the physical risks associated with computer work, i.e. complaints of arm, neck or shoulder (CANS) and lower back pain, and provide some insight into associated psychosocial factors. This will be followed by suggestions about ways to prevent and relieve this type of disorder. I will briefly discuss the concept of ‘change management’ which involves adapting to new posture and movement strategies, and illustrate this using the ‘State of Change Model' in which the phases of adjusting to a new habit are clarified. The presentation will be concluded by a practical session during which we will practice a few simple exercises together. 

In conclusion, the take home message for the audience is that in order to achieve long-term changes in behaviour it is necessary to practice active sitting and do exercises during the working day. In other words – stop sitting on the problem!

Yoga at your desk

“Sitting is the new smoking”. Most of us have heard this by now, but many of us are still condemned to working at a desk, sitting in a chair. This short workshop will allow participants to do some simple yoga exercises to counteract the destructive effects of sitting, from their seats, or more accurately getting out of their seats in a “pretend” office environment. It will not require special clothing or equipment, but on the contrary is geared to an office setting where people may be wearing non-optimal clothing and have limited space and nosy colleagues. In addition, we will use objects like the chair and desk as aids. 

Why yoga? 

1. It involves the breath, which helps reduce/avoid stress. 

2. It aids circulation to cut-off areas

3. It strengthens muscles weakened by sitting and other bad habits, and stretches tight ones.

Participants will be taken through a number of poses that help shoulders, neck, back, hips, “core” (abdomen and sides) and legs.

About the facilitators

David McKay is the sole proprietor of Open Book Translation, a Dutch-English translation company specializing in literary works, books and articles on the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and texts for museums and the cultural sector. He is now working with the literary translator Ina Rilke on a new translation of Max Havelaar for the NYRB Classics series. His translation of the Flemish novel War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans will soon be published by Harvill Secker/Random House.

Leonie Porton, was born in Uithoorn, the Netherlands in 1991. In 2014 she gained a BSc from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA). She is now working  at the Medical Training Centre in Mijdrecht and at Oefentherapie Boskoop as an exercise therapist, ergonomic consultant, personal trainer, group instructor and fitness expert. Her areas of expertise include the treatment and prevention of work-related complaints and behavioral change. The therapeutic goals that she promotes include empowerment of the patient to claim ownership of their complaint and to provide insight into bad habits with the aim of preventing illness. In her spare time you will find Leonie in the gym. Although specialised in sport she is always on the look out for innovation and new challenges in her field of work. Since 2014 she has been the face of the FLITZZ project, a virtual and online exercise program for patients to prevent complications during hospitalization.  

American-born Anne Hodgkinson has been a translator/editor since about 1998. She discovered the physical and mental benefits of yoga about fifteen years ago, and got a yoga teaching certificate in 2012. Somewhat high-strung by nature, she finds the physicality and social interaction of yoga teaching the perfect antidote to working alone at a desk. 


The sense of singing


Robert, David & Barbara met through the Nederlands Kamerkoor and have sung together for about 30 years. They will tell us about their singing history and how they have used the experience they built up over the years in their other existence as translators. 

The Sense of Singing has been prompted bythe BBC series 'The Choir' and an article in the Health section of the ITI website.

Singing is good for you

Members of the audience who are or have been a member of a choir will know singing is good for you. Singing technique can provide therapy and health benefits in other areas. It helps teachers and speakers with breathing, voice production, posture, stage presence, and not least stage fright.  There will be a broad explanation of singing technique and its wider application, and a discussion on stage fright and ways to tackle it.

Everybody can gain a sense of achievement, even pride, from singing and it is a social activity - whilst translating is very often a solitary one. Singing also offers opportunities for networking.

Singing is not purely intellectual. Not only is active singing beneficial but listening to vocal music can also inspire and relax. By its nature, vocal music has an extra dimension when compared to instrumental. It can be magical, but the differences between professionals and amateurs in both singing and translation mean it may not always be magical...

 We will explore the parallels between singing and translation. Linguistic and singing ability seem to be linked as many professional singers are good at languages, and some are also translators. We will examine the need for interpretation both in singing by interpreting text through music, and in translation by the choice of 'best' word or phrase. Both skills rely on the parallels between learning a language and learning music.

Can everyone sing?


Barring physical handicap or injury, most people can sing, but many assume they can’t – or don’t wish to! An important issue is pitch. We’ll attempt to explain how it works, and discuss perfect pitch. David may hold a simple ear test with the audience’s help.


Musical finale

The Sense of Singing will include some audience participation: a simple, well-known canon, like Frère Jacques, hopefully in several different languages at once! This should cause merriment and we will discuss how it affected the audience.Then as a reward, the Sense of Singing will be rounded off by a professional musical finale.


About the facilitators

David Barick was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA and came to the Netherlands in 1979 to pursue a career as a classical singer. He realized this ambition by appearing as a soloist with many leading orchestras and ensembles, and was a long-time member of the Netherlands Chamber Choir. While thus occupied, he began to pursue his other passion, languages, by giving private English lessons. After his retirement from performing a number of years ago, it was a logical step for him to turn these language activities into a full-time occupation. He works both as a translator and a teacher in various areas of English: academic writing, business English and conversation. He is a devoted polyglot who can converse in eight languages and is working on several others. When not occupied with language matters, you might very well find him in the kitchen making his fresh pasta, which is created entirely by hand— no pasta machines used. 

Robert Coupe read Modern Languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a choral scholar. He then worked for some years for Shell in London. He moved to Holland to take up a post as tenor in the Nederlands Kamerkoor, where he sang for over 30 years, combining it with many and varied solo engagements. Quite early on during this period he was approached to do translation work, and for many years was the regular translator for his employer, the NKK. Other bodies for whom he has translated include the Early Music Festival Utrecht, the Huelgas Ensemble, the Haarlem Choral Biennale and Stichting ArtZuid. Robert also provides English coaching to the Netherlands Radio Choir. 

The American soprano Barbara Borden has lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1981. As well as being a member of the Nederlands Kamerkoor for over 30 years, she has also sung with numerous other vocal ensembles and has appeared regularly as a soloist in the Netherlands and elsewhere. She has contributed to over 60 CD recordings, one of which received a Grammy nomination in 2006. Since leaving the Nederlands Kamerkoor in 2013, Barbara has been exploring her talents in other areas. She plans to set up her own business offering a unique combination of personal services including pet care, translating and proofreading, professional organizing and (last but not least!) singing for special occasions.

Editing for clients in academia: a panel discussion

That the editing of texts written by students and academic faculty is a topic of great interest to SENSE members became clear from the record number of 73 SENSE members who attended the society’s meeting in February 2014. Then, two speakers from Essex University explained the background to Essex University’s policy and guidelines on the editing of student texts and presented findings of their research on their university’s “proofreaders” (the people who do this editing).  Now, this one-hour session will focus on the situation in the Netherlands. The panellists will be the SENSE members who proposed setting up SENSE’s special interest group UniSIG for editors working for clients in academia: Camilla Brokking, Jackie Senior, Curtis Barrett and Joy Burrough-Boenisch (chair). Each panellist will give a short presentation, after which there will be a discussion, with opportunity for questions and comments from the audience.  Camilla, whose academic clients are primarily from Australian universities, will speak on the ethics of editing student texts. Jackie will speak from the perspective of an in-house editor in a top university department with a large group of international researchers. Curtis, who combines freelance editing for PhD candidates and faculty with teaching scientific English at several Dutch universities, will speak on university departments’ funding for editorial services. Joy, who also freelances for Dutch PhD candidates and faculty and teaches scientific English, will highlight features of SENSE’s guidelines for thesis editing.

About the facilitators

Camilla Brokking has been editing for academic clients for 17 years, in fields including business law, humanities, civil engineering and life sciences. She has a degree in biological sciences and an MA in American Studies. The majority of her clients come from Australian universities, and include students from South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. She is mindful of the interplay between producing simple, clear English, retaining the author’s voice, and maintaining ethical boundaries in editing student writing. In 2013 she proposed that SENSE establish guidelines for editing student theses and helped set up the working group that developed these guidelines. 

Jackie Senior is a founder and honorary member of SENSE and has served twice on its executive committee. She works as an editor and webmaster for an ambitious research department (Dept. of Genetics, University of Groningen/UMCG). Nowadays she works mostly on biomedical texts but she started as a geologist (in the oil and gas boom), worked in investment banking (during the internet bubble), and moved to the genetics group in the 1990s (human genome era). She has been editing and translating for over 40 years but, with the Dutch retirement age becoming a moveable feast, is exploring options for later

Curtis Barrett received his PhD in neuroscience in 2001. After a distinguished career as an academic researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Stanford University, and Leiden University Medical Center, Curtis changed gears and became a full-time language consultant for scientists and clinical researchers. Curtis has edited hundreds of manuscripts, dissertations, and grant proposals for academic clients. In addition, Curtis teaches academic and scientific writing and presenting to Master’s and doctoral students at universities throughout Europe, and he is regularly invited to speak at student-organised events. Curtis is the owner of English Editing Solutions and the current Programme Secretary for SENSE.

Joy Burrough-Boenisch is a founder and honorary member of SENSE, who edits for Dutch scientists and academics, specialising in environmental and earth science. She has two degrees in geography and a doctorate in applied linguistics. Her thesis was on Dutch scientific English. She also teaches academic and scientific English and trains language professionals in the Netherlands and abroad (including at the European Commission) via workshops and webinars. Her publications include chapters in the EASE Science Editors’ Handbook and in Supporting Research Writing: Roles and challenges in multilingual setting (ed. Valerie Matarese) and her book Righting English that’s gone Dutch.

Talking the walk: helping non-native speakers to present scientific posters successfully

Posters are intended to get people’s attention. To present a short, simple message, they combine a strong image (such as a moustachioed officer pointing straight at the viewer) with a short text (“Your Country Needs You”). In principle, scientific poster sessions borrow from this tradition, aiming to present the essence of a complex idea quickly and accessibly. In practice, many posters fail, and all too few are read, a fact conference organisers now seem to recognise. To improve communication – and possibly to increase networking – many sessions now include a poster walk, in which successive scientists present their poster in a three-minute talk. But if you’re a junior scientist working in your second or third language in a setting without native-speaking inputs, how easy is it to give such a talk? You certainly won’t get the guidelines you need from a conventional poster, which is too cumbersome: wordy and poorly designed. And there’s no way you can make an overloaded scientific-sounding sentence trip off the tongue! In recent work with PhD students at Erasmus University Medical Centre, I have developed a set of style and design guidelines that seems to work surprisingly well. I will outline it briefly, providing a handout. One of my students has kindly agreed to demonstrate how she puts these guidelines into practice. Time allowing, we will also summarise the responses of PhD supervisors to this approach.  

About the facilitator

David Alexander has been living in the Netherlands for nearly 41 years, where he has worked in various commercial and academic settings as a translator, language editor and language-skills trainer. This presentation reflects 14 years of experience as teacher and co-ordinator of the course in English Biomedical Writing and Communication at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam. 


Editors, translators and teachers as gatekeepers of the language - a panel discussion

English continues to be used more and more in professional life in the Netherlands. It is the language of business, the language of academia, and the international language of communication in general. An ever-increasing number of people want to use English at a high level, but they also want to be seen as real users, with their own way of saying things. SENSE members play various important roles in mediating between the writers and readers of English. Crucially, whether it be in our role as editor, translator or tutor, we are seen as gatekeepers of the language. It is our job to determine what counts as good English and what not.

But as a lingua franca, English is changing. So should we stick to our guns and ensure that every report we edit comes across as a piece of native speaker writing? Should we use the full richness of our vocabulary and syntactic repertoire when translating a website for an international readership?  And should we continue to put a red line through <If the experiment would be replicated> in every PhD candidate’s first draft?

In other words, what is the best way to perform our gatekeeping role? Should we become more relaxed in that role, or is it important that we do everything we can to ensure that standards do not slip? Is there perhaps a way to continue to stress the importance of correctness and clarity while at the same time recognizing that the English used by Dutch speakers may have its own features, and that the readability of a text is more important than the wonders of the idiom?

Panel leader and participants:


Mike Hannay - panel leader

Alison Edwards

Susan Hunt

Tony Parr

Laura Rupp 


Mike Hannay - Professor of English language and Director of Studies at the Arts Faculty of the VU University Amsterdam. He is specialized in the relationship between sentence and text: how can you organize the information in a sentence so that you improve the coherence of the text? He is particularly interested in differences between English and Dutch. Mike incorporates insights from new linguistic research into advanced training programmes in writing, translating and text editing. Over the last 15 years he has given a range of invited courses and workshops in the Benelux, Germany, Spain and Brazil, including workshops for the translation departments of the European Commission.

Alison Edwards - received her PhD at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the sociolinguistics of English in the Netherlands. She has a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and undergraduate degrees in both German Studies and Journalism. Alison has lived and worked as a researcher, writer, editor and translator in various countries, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Susan Hunt - Inspired by the principles of the UK-based Plain English campaign PLAIN ENGLISH, Susan set up her own translation agency in 1987 to provide English language services in the widest sense to businesses and organisations in the Netherlands whose activities are dedicated to an international audience.

Tony Parr - Tony Parr has extensive experience as translator (freelance and in-house) and as teacher of translation, principally at the National College of Translation in Maastricht. He is co-author of Handboek voor de Vertaler Nederlands-Engels and, operating under the name of Teamwork [], has been organising short courses, workshops and conferences for language professionals in the Netherlands since 1993.

Laura Rupp - Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics of the VU University Amsterdam. Previously, Laura was Lecturer English Language and Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex, where she also received her PhD. Current research: Language Variation and Change and Global English. She also is involved in an international research project regarding English as an international language in higher education. 


The SENSE 2015 Conference was a one-day event in Utrecht, the Netherlands, for English language professionals.

The event took place in the Paushuize, a memorable historical venue in the heart of one of the Netherland’s most picturesque cities.

Paus Huize 

Participants came from the fields of editing, translating, interpreting, copywriting and teaching English language communication skills.  More than 10 top speakers, from inside and outside SENSE, held presentations and discussions during the conference. Participants were able to debate on the changing state of the language, learn from best practices and brush up on the skills needed to be a successful language professional.

Conference Souvenir 

If you were lucky enough to have been there on the day, you'll know what a wonderful success the conference turned out to be. If you couldn't make it, or perhaps would like to gain an idea of what the next SENSE conference might be like, download this special issue of our house magazine commemorating the conference: eSense 25th Jubilee Souvenir, 2015.


Situated on Kromme Nieuwegracht 49, just behind Utrecht’s landmark Dom tower and about 15 minutes’ walk from Utrecht Central Station, Paushuize is one of the oldest and most outstanding monuments in the city of Utrecht, with a remarkable history. It is so named because it was built in 1517 by Paus (Pope) Adrian VI, the only Dutch pope from the Netherlands.

A variety of beautifully restored period rooms and splendidly decorated salons, makes the building one of the most sought-after venues in the Netherlands.

Read an article about the venue in our eSense magazine: Conference venue is fit for a pope


Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, is the beating heart of the country and at the hub of the rail network.  It’s a vital city, with a large student population: its university (founded in 1636) is the largest in the Netherlands. The medieval city centre is small enough to explore on foot and large enough to boast a wealth of culture and history, including world-class festivals, modern architecture, trendy shops and interesting museums. The inner city canals are unique: they are accessible by steps from the street and their wharves are now used as terraces by the many cellar bars and restaurants.

Keynote speakers

Professor Geoffrey Pullum is a British-American linguist specialising in the study of English. Since 2009 he has been Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. Pullum is co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002). He is also a regular contributor to Language Log, a collaborative linguistics weblog.

Mark Forsyth is a passionate, self-described pedant when it comes to the English language, but his detailed knowledge of history has given him a common-sense approach to its ‘proper’ use. He is an author, blogger, journalist, proofreader and ghostwriter. He can be found dispelling the grammar myths we were all taught in his popular blog The Inky Fool.


Delegates arrived between 9.00 and 9.30 am to register and enjoy a coffee and some informal networking.

Registration, coffee
Opening & announcements
Plenary speaker: Mark Forsyth
Let us go then, you and me - A trip through English grammar
Coffee break
Freek Wallaart
Susan Aretz
Leonie Porton
Stop sitting on the problem
David McKay
Treadmill desks for translators
Ann Hodgkinson
Camilla Brokking
Ethics of thesis editing
Jackie Senior
Working as an in-house scientific editor
Curtis Barrett
Helping students source funding
Joy Burrough
SENSE’s Thesis Editing Guidelines
Robert Coupe, David Barick
& Barbara Borden
Nigel Saych
Sally Hill
Mary Ellen Kerans
General and specific corpora with online concordance tools: quick information to help resolve doubts about language use
Daphne Lees
David Alexander & Hannah Dekker
Lee Ann Weeks
Jackie Senior & Kate Mc Intyre
Share your expertise with fellow professionals: mentoring in practice
Marcel Lemmens & Tony Parr
Plenary speaker: Professor Geoffrey Pullum
English: the language that ate the world
Tea break + exhibits
Plenary Panel Discussion chaired by Professor Mike Hannay (panellists t.b.a.)
Editors, translators and teachers as gatekeepers of the language
Drinks - for delegates, speakers & presenters
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