May and June - Months Eleven and Twelve

Apologises for the radio silence – it’s been a crazy few months so I thought I’d try and get my head together to attempt to write something coherent for the two months combined. This will also be the last “Things I’ve Learnt” blog in terms of being a start up as I’m about to celebrate my first birthday!

But do not despair – I’ll be continuing to blog, ideally monthly, and be focusing on business issues, geeky language and cultural posts and looking at how language interacts with society. Anyway, here’s what I learnt over the last few months.

1.      Rest is good

It can be really hard to take time off. I often feel guilty and like I should be doing something. That it’s not acceptable to have a relaxed day off and read a book or go out despite the fact I’ve worked on numerous weekends. However, having booked a holiday and intentionally switching on my out of office was one of the most rewarding and refreshing things. It’s still a tough learning curve and I still feel guilty if I’m not doing anything but I can most certainly see the benefits of rest and working to get better at it! This also leads me on to the second point…

2.      It’s hard not to count the pennies

But it’s not helpful to. Sometimes it’s hard not to see a job and immediately think of it in terms of money: how many bills it will cover, how far will that get me to my next target, how much security it provides… However, it often leads to quite a shallow and greedy point of view. Obviously, it’s important to be making enough but it can be in danger of taking over and sapping away the enjoyment of it all. I’m learning to take a step back and reassess things, weigh up if I need or want to take a job but it’s a steep learning curve.

3.      Proofreading is everything

And I want to get better at it. I find I can easily proofread a stranger’s work and spot the mistakes no problem. I can proofread my own, short, pieces of work and improve them. However, where I really struggle, is proofreading my own 50 000 word document I’ve translated. I find I quickly become blind to my mistakes. I’m trying a few different methods: printing out (costly), having the computer read it aloud (time consuming), giving myself a few days before I proof (deadline dependent) but any tricks or suggestions would be much appreciated!

4.      Being selective matters

Life has been a lot better since I’ve allowed myself the freedom to be more selective! It makes a huge difference to my pace of work and more importantly, to my enjoyment. It’s been really nice to take a step back from more technical texts which require a lot of background reading for me to understand and to move more into humanities type texts or more customer facing texts. Having done this for almost a year now(!), I now have a lot more confidence to say no to jobs and ultimately, that’s going to be better for both me and the client.

5.      Context is key

Talking of customer facing texts, I got quite the scare the other day when a text for a coffee machine and products website and it used the word ‘connard’. I associate this as being quite a rude word and couldn’t quite believe that the translation in my head was what the customer wanted to communicate to their own clients. I looked it up and found ‘idiot’ as a much more mild alternative! It certainly served as a reminder that context is always essential, and that translation is so much more than knowing what the words mean – you always have to think about who’s going to read the final product!

6.      The client isn’t always right

This may seem odd and it’s one of the things I find hardest to admit. Maybe it’s being British and being overly polite, maybe it’s to do with still being quite new to the job, maybe it’s my people pleasing tendencies, but I find it really hard to tell the client that they’re wrong. However, recently I received a source text which had so many errors I couldn’t leave it. Indeed, the client was unimpressed at the unfinished sentences in some segments… until I pointed out that this was because the source text was unfinished. There were also various spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies. I’ve also had times a client wanted a word translated as a completely wrong meaning. Eventually, you sometimes have to put your foot down and say that it’s not a faithful or true translation. It’s difficult but I’m quickly learning to be authoritative when needed!

7.      Community matters

I feel like I write about this every time, but community is so, so, so important. To me, this was particularly apparent when preparing for GDPR. It made life so much easier to have a community to ask questions of, share resources with and vent to. Without the translation community, I’m 100% sure I still wouldn’t understand GDPR and the implications for me. It’s also been really nice to begin to be in position where I can refer friends to agencies and it’s nice to share the ample work and give something back.

8.      You never truly switch off from translation

Recently I was watching a news story about the awful floods in Japan. As part of the story, they had the Japanese Prime Minister speaking which had been interpreted simultaneously. In a very geeky confession, this is my favourite part of the news, I love it. Granted, less exciting when I don’t understand the source but still great. I was surprised when the interpreter referred to an ‘inondation’ instead of a flood and found myself mentally correcting him, despite not knowing the source. This is just a small example but one thing which amazes me is how my brain is always looking out for errors like that and never truly switches off.

Thanks for being on the journey for the last 12 months! Keep checking back for regular updates on a whole range of topics.