Translation work – R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha Franklin-Translation work need some respect

Find out what it means to me

I have a lot of translation work to do.

It’s Easter today and my kids are home, not at school. After hours of playing on their Ipad, they are getting bored and suddenly feel that I should become their personal entertainer.

As a result, it looks like my productivity is going down the drain. Sound familiar? Time to gain some respect for my work and have my job as a translator taken seriously.

A Little Respect (Just a Little Bit)

Many people complain that the work of a translator is not recognised or valued by clients and the labour market, and that we are increasingly underestimated mainly when it comes to values. However, we barely realise that it is equally important to educate those who spend the most time with us i.e our family.

When doing translation work, let’s agree that no one deserves to hear from relatives things like “But you do not work!” Or “You simply stay on your computer all day!”. Not to mention having to deal with gatherings of all sorts, whenever it seems that everyone has decided to meet and share party dips and you have a very tight deadline. And you have to fence the occasional “When will you stop what you’re doing and have some fun for once? This can wait” Or even worse – ”When will you get a real job?”. Well, here are some tips for you to impose your chosen profession and get rid of those unpleasant questions.

Aretha Franklin-Freelancers working from home also need some respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Concept

Do people know and/or realise what you do when you do translation work? If not, explain it to them. You are a translator, not a language teacher, a walking dictionary or a living grammar book, for crying out loud. You may be a language specialist, but it is important to make people understand what you translate, and while translation – didactic and linguistic – may complement each other, they are different activities that require different skills.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for your translation work

People who live with you need to understand that your home is your place of work. If you have decided to turn one of the bedrooms of your house into a home-office, please state that there must be silence during a certain period of the day, with as few interruptions as possible. If necessary, customise a beautiful “I’m working” sign and hang it on your now-office door. For the worst case scenarios, go for a “Do not disturb” sign and work happily in your little corner.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the fruit of your work

As a translator and a freelancer, you are a provider for your family. Don’t think otherwise or let people think otherwise. So when your favourite aunty wants to share a nostalgic moment with you, or just chat, show them that your translation work is a money tree in your household. Whenever or wherever you practise, you need to work to pay off your debts. Combine to interact with them at lunchtime, tea at five o’clock, or any other appropriate time, but not during work hours.

Translation work – Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)

As translators, we face a daily struggle to win new clients, gain values ​​that match our efforts, stand out in the midst of the job market, be recognised as a serious category (not just as a “complementary” profession) and to impose a set of limits that determine our professional well-being. So my advice is this – If you cannot organise a work-at-home routine, you will not have the necessary structure to process these activities.

Imposing limits is a necessity. Other people might know little of our profession, and it is up to us to establish certain parameters. Just as you had to remind this nice customer of yours who called you two or three times during the night that your time zone is different from theirs, you should teach whoever shares the same roof with you that there are working hours in your business.

All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)

So kids, whether you’re home or coming back from school, after I have taken care of your tea, no loud music, no unnecessary interruptions, no sudden intrusions.

I’m working. OK?

After all, Aretha taught us: Respect is needed.

A Translator’s Life: The Edge of Reason

procrastinating with facebook

Motivation vs. Procrastination in the Life of a Translator

In recent months, many things that I have done and seen have made me think on productivity. What motivates and what hinders our work routine, and how all this reflects in our image and our professional success as translators. Today, I will gather some thoughts and information on this.

From translating an inspirational book

Recently, I completed the translation of a booklet about self-help for a customer, which had a great impact on me (Cannot give you its title at this stage as it is waiting for publication).

I loved doing this translation, with which I also learned a lot.

Small, with tiny chapters, written in simple and direct language, permeated with illustrations, it is intended for businessmen or people who wish to start a business, or maybe not even that. Yet, this one is very different from any other kind of self-help business books out there. It demystifies many notions about business we hear. yet, always with a lot of common sense and almost excessive frankness. Virtually all the topics covered in the book can be applied to freelancers as well, especially to translators who have a business. I’ve found myself reflected in many chapters – or saw my past, my background, past jobs, colleagues. Even in typical day-to-day situations in an office, which have nothing to do with me, I saw relatives and friends there.

To Gaining Valuable Insights Into My Translation Business

There are valuable insights on preparing and launching new ventures, outreach, business concepts, use of technology, distance co-operation, competition, and much about productivity and motivation. I do not want to give away too much here, but a lot of things stuck with me. Not everything is new, but said in such an eloquent way, with great real examples. The text ends up reinforcing what people in the background already know, besides giving us some well-deserved slaps in the face. For example:

— Everything you do, say, write, every phone call, every invoice, every email – everything – is marketing.

— Being a workaholic, turning nights and weekends, sleeping little and eating badly, and still being proud of it, ultimately is being incompetent, disorganised, clumsy. Working a lot has nothing to do with working well.

— Having brilliant ideas or making big plans is no merit; What really makes the difference is in actually realising a succession of little good ideas every day.

— Current interaction tools have revalued writing – emails, text messages, websites, blogs. Communication should be efficient, clear, informative. Writing well is the fruit of the clarity and organisation of thoughts; therefore, when recruiting partners, give preference to those who write well.

— Want to be immune to competition? Make your product your own, something that only you can do, your way of being, something inimitable. Not just the result of your work, but the whole experience of working with you. (Another that applies even more to translators, as opposed to entrepreneurs from other areas.)

— To excel and have a differential, share and teach. The more people want to do what you do, the way you do, the more you establish yourself as a leader.

— Our great enemy is interruption. We only surrender when we can work for a while without any kind of interruption, so you have to schedule work periods like this.

— What drive productivity is motivation, and this is the result of many factors, including a favourable environment, attainable goals and small daily successes – more on this issue next.

— And much, much more.

How people procrastinate

More motivation to be a better translator

Also recently, I attended a convention for small entrepreneurs. I confess that at first I did not give it much credit – such a public thing, for free… What do I know, right? But it was exceptional. Great lectures, beginning with one of Google’s directors in Australia, and with many panels on digital media, marketing and business tools, etc. In a hall filled with computers, volunteers helped those who wanted to learn and open accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn and other networking sites. At the end of the day, I left full energy to improve my productivity, choose better customers, and make more productive partnerships.

And I cannot say why, but I have the impression that only this motivation, this desire to be effective, to reinforce the things that I clearly have been doing right and to correct what is not, already generates positive results. I think that just setting certain priorities or having clearer headings already translates into productivity – and effectiveness. And productivity translates into praise, better services, more money, more time to do what we like, and all this produces more motivation, of course.

Speaking of motivation, I discovered today, through a Twitter link, this beautifully illustrated lecture on the results of a research on motivation – what kind of reward yields good results, makes us win challenges. In a TED Talk, Dan Ariely does not say anything that we do not already know, but watching and reading him filled me with enthusiasm.

Professional Satisfaction as a Translator

I have seen dilemmas, debates and experiences about unattractive professional choices with huge monetary compensation versus choices that give more personal and professional satisfaction with little financial return. And increasingly I am an unconditional partisan of the second option. Because in the long run, a job that generates a good dose of motivation, which is a priority, that makes sense, inevitably generates financial return as well – and from a certain point, a higher financial return alone does not increase the motivation, quite the opposite.

There is also a crucial difference in the different positions I see in aspiring translators – for example, in the numerous emails I receive from beginners in translation asking for all kinds of opinions, advice or help.

Benefits of being a translator

There are people who, before even trying to translate something, soon show that they are anxious to know how much they will earn. It has to be a lot. It has to be now. In general, these same people want to know which areas are easy to get into, requires a small amount of customer service and guaranteed high salary. It is not uncommon to hear some well-publicised myths out there, such as those sworn translators who earn abysmal sums of money each month translating some nonsense driver’s licence.

Yes, of course! Gee, that must be why so many of my colleagues and my fellow sworn translators live on yachts, and only I have not realised that yet.

The Real Winners of the Translation Industry

The fact of the matter is that – almost always – those who have this type of concern when planning their career are not the ones who will spend half an hour immersed in dictionaries trying to get the perfect translation for an expression. Nor would they usually “waste time” studying in depth, or begin their translation career willing to translate for very little money in the beginning. It is not by chance that these “translators” are not the ones who tend to achieve the kind of professional success they were hoping to get.

Others want to perfect themselves. They want to study more, read more, do more exercises, want you to recommend other courses. There is a passion behind what they do, as well as the relentless pursuit of technical improvement – which is a lot duller and less exciting than the “passion for languages.” I often keep in touch with these people, and I am happy to see how successful they are in the profession. They are great colleagues. And the interesting thing is that they are often surprised, think they were lucky or do not think they work too much.

After 25 years of experience as a translator, now that I have a different perspective, the difference is very clear. People like that are a minority, yes, and they succeed because they have the motivation driven by the right priorities, which lead them to make no effort to improve. They embark on the profession aiming to be excellent professionals throughout their lives, not aiming for a cash-filled savings and early retirement. The difference between these values ​​is huge.

The Worst Enemy of the Translator

To conclude, let me talk about our worst enemy: procrastination. Who does not suffer from that throws me the first stone. We have to be connected all day, easy to be found by clients and colleagues, attentive. Emails need to be answered quickly. We need to be aware of the latest news and debates. Help someone to solve a problem on Facebook. Watching a photo album of our latest trip or someone laughing at a bad translation in a video on YouTube … 1h45 later, you wonder why you are still watching this new episode of the Game of thrones.

Not to mention that Monday morning, when you take a deep breath and open the directory of the next 35-page review of a text on IT, and suddenly that’s the ideal time to mow the lawn (Or update the blog…)

Sometimes, procrastination is more blatant. Sometimes, it is camouflaged as research or confused with coffee time. Anyway, if we’re honest, we all know that we don’t roll up our sleeves more than we should, that we often lose control over the time of rest. Then the blame hits and we work until 3 o’clock in the morning, we skip meals. And when we see it, we fall into the vicious cycle of inefficient workaholism, which can end up compromising quality.

Applying These Reflections to the World of Translation

It was just when I was thinking about these subjects that I came across this article, about the evolutionary, neurological and behavioural reasons behind procrastination, and why it seems to sabotage us in such effective ways. It brings some clues to cheating our own brains, or at least not letting ourselves be fooled. Another read is worth very much.

This text quotes Dan Ariely, a scholar of human behaviours associated with economics who has given excellent lectures in TED. On his site there are links to podcasts he has done on the various chapters. I still do not know how to relate all this to the universe of translation, but all this discussion has attracted me immensely and I feel it will still bring me something useful – even if it is good reflections and reading recommendations.

Now, to work!

Translation and… Tennis? Really?

tennis ball with english and french flags

From Tennis to English-French translation

A taste for language study, grammar, literature and translation, and more than 25 years as an English into French translator defines a large part of who I am, the way I think, with whom I relate and to whom I dedicate most of my time now. In the past, things were very different. As a teenager, one of the activities that most occupied my time was tennis.

Funny thing that I should think about tennis – now – when I spent so much time translating documents these days, wouldn’t you think?

Translated English documents to French for 25 years

While I spend most of my professional life doing French translations these days, the truth of the matter is, recently I met a very old friend of mine for an important event in my life. Someone who played a major role, whom I hadn’t seen for 10 years.

Our meeting after all these years made me think about how and when we met 35 years ago. We were both teenagers and I used to play tennis. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t very good at it but this is not important. What’s important is that meeting him after such a long time got me to compare my present life as a language translator and my former life as a teenager playing tennis. My mind began to “travel back” and weave parallels between those two activities. I was amazed to see how much they have in common. So here’s a little exercise in reflection: any of the items below are what I see and feel as much about the field of translation as about tennis, or for any individual sport for that matter.

Thoughts about what it is to be a translator and/or a tennis player

                – It is notoriously lonely, which does not mean that everything depends on you alone.

               – Those who see practice it without knowing it, think that it is something purely mechanical.

                – You have to train your whole life; there is no time when there is no need to practise and improve. In the beginning it’s just to do the basics, but the higher the level you reach, the more important it is to train regularly to seek to extend your own limits.

                – You can always improve.

                – It is 99% creating and 1% inspiration.

                – If, for those who look from the outside, what the person does seem easy and natural, you can be sure that it takes a lot more effort than you can imagine.

                – We need to train a lot, for years and years, so that when we come across some of those crucial moments of our career, when we have those immense challenges that mark us for the rest of our lives, we know how to seize the opportunity.

                – There is luck. But strategy cannot be ignored.

                – There is much room for discussion about rules and questions. But inside is inside, and outside is outside.

                – You have to be able to get a taste for – or at least accept and take satisfaction – from practice in all aspects (even those we do not like) – tiredness, repetition, frustration, pain. The moments of memorable victories and recognition are rare and are directly related to this continuous effort.

               – Mistakes are a part of it and often happen. There simply isn’t any way you cannot – eventually – make mistakes. One must accept that this will happen and be able to deal with errors so as not to compromise the final result, and jeopardise their self-confidence and the pleasure of continuing to dedicate themselves.

                – Defeat is also a part of it. You need to know how to use it as a source of motivation to improve. But if you repeatedly fail to win, there is something very wrong with what you are doing, and you need to acknowledge this fact and seek help.

                – The only way to improve is always to measure ourselves with who is better than you.

                – It is important to have a model (or some) of what we would like to be. And it is important to know why we choose this model.

                – Defeating or pointing out mistakes of those who are technically inferior does not make us better at something.

And the comparison with translation does not stop here

                – Making serious mistakes, gossiping or giving justifications only makes the situation worse. The only solution is to learn from them immediately and find a way to get it right the next time.

                – The feeling of pride in winning is very strong, because we fight alone and the merit is strongly individual. But whoever wins a major victory always has a huge number of people to thank for, for getting there.

                – It takes a very unique combination of ambition and humility, always.

                – Do not stand still in one place. To stop is to go back.

                – You cannot rest on your laurels while your career has not come to an end. This is a mortal sin.

                – Few things reveal our true ethics as a painful defeat. Or even the possibility of defeat.

                – Even the most correct of people might try to distort a rule in their favour or take advantage from time to time. But nothing is more difficult than doing what we know to be right when we are robbed or harmed in bad faith. And this happens often.

                – External factors, whether natural or human, interfere all the time. No one is immune to them. But whoever is really serious never uses these factors as justification for their failures.

                – It is perfectly possible to be self-taught, but the immense majority of self-taught people will have visible technical defects or deficiencies if they ever stop learning.

                – Except for rare exceptions, it is possible to identify self-taught, amateur or occasional practitioners in a matter of seconds.

               – “Having passion” and being a professional – which makes of that practice, the career of a lifetime – are completely different things. Being professional and not losing your passion for something that requires so much effort and dedication is the big challenge.

                – There is plenty of room for great professionals who will never be on top or go down in history. There is no shame and it is possible to have a very dignified and productive career at intermediate levels. The degree of effort and dedication required remains exactly the same.

                – There are those who have innate talent for the thing, and this is noticeable, even if we do not know exactly what it is.

                – Helping someone improve makes us even better.

                – Our opponent is our colleague. Without it, we are nothing, we have no merit. Our enemy today is your partner tomorrow, or vice versa.

                – It is fundamental to respect the adversary and know how to recognise his merits.

More analogies with translation

                – It is crucial to know how to separate a profession from personal relationships, even though these two dimensions are constantly mixing.

               – We do not devote ourselves because we expect recognition. We dedicate ourselves because it is part of who we are and we want to carry it out with quality.

                – It’s a journey of self-knowledge. We need to face our faults and weaknesses, as well as discover and know how to take advantage of our talents.

                – We have to know how to study alone, to work alone, to protect ourselves, to overcome solitary challenges.

                – Those who observe us from the outside will judge us, sometimes based on details we barely notice. It’s part of the activity.

                – Claiming that you are good at it means nothing. You have to show it.

                – A beautiful victory or one of pride fills everyone.

                – Anyone who says they do not feel pressure when other people are watching is lying blatantly. The great merit lies in not letting the performance fall too much under pressure.

                – Anyone who thinks that constantly investing in quality instrumental makes no difference in performance does not understand anything. Whoever thinks that only the instrumental solves everything, either.

                – The better you are, the more difference it makes in a fraction of a second, a centimetre, a degree.

                – It’s not something we do. It is something that one is. It’s a way of life, a way of thinking. Not just the person, but the whole family.

               – It is an practice that transforms our way of looking at life and that influences everything we do, even if it is totally unrelated to the activity itself.

                – When done well, it even touches. But only for those who know how to really enjoy it.

               – It is science. It’s art. Juggling. It’s dance.

And I’m sure the list could go on and on. One day, maybe in 35 years’ time – Will I still be doing English-French translation? – I might still add items to this list…

PS: talking about tennis, I didn’t mean to generalise. That wasn’t even the goal. Much of this would also apply to a number of other individual sports or any challenging thing one might practise.

Do you notice anything different about me?

a different translation

You’ve had your website translated into French?
 
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Yet, like many companies, you might have used a translation agency to translate your document into French.

Have you ever considered using a Freelance Translator? If you have not, let me give you 3 very good reasons why You Should:

(Much) Better Quality of translation

  • Translator gets to know your business, your language, your style and your company, becoming part of your team
  • Style and Terminology become MORE consistent
  • You are 100% sure YOUR translator is a French-native speaker and Professional Translator

No middleman = Better Value for Money

Direct Contact

  • One Point of Contact
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