Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Translators: Artists or Scientists?

In my MA lecture yesterday, we discussed whether translation studies could be classified as a science. One of my colleagues put forward that it already is, but another student voiced her opinion that translation is very much an art form.

It was argued that a scientific field would garner more respect than an art, which I personally disagree with, especially in the areas that I work in. I very much doubt that someone who has written a fashion feature will search high and low for the most scientific looking translator. Just the same, the producer of a medical trial paper would not be looking for a creative, poetic writing style.

This age-old debate is still raging, and the discussion culminated in our lecturer summarising that translation can be both an art and a science, depending on the text that you start with.

If translation really is an art and a science, why do both of my degrees fall under the Arts and Humanities category?

What do you think?

What can be learned from this debate? Identify your strengths. Are you an artist, a scientist, or both? Can you adapt to your client’s needs, or are you highly specialised in their field? Tell them! Make sure they know your worth. But, in order to do so, you need to know your own.

What’s your Star Sign? Astrology and Translation

Marian Dougan of Words to good effect (it’s on my blogroll for a reason!) posted a fun poll over the weekend, which looked for a link between translators’ zodiac signs and their personality traits.

I am a Pisces, which, according to Astrology Online, means that:

• the nine-to-five life is not for me (handy!)
• I have a yearning for new sensations and travel to remote, exotic places (most definitely)
• I am versatile and intuitive, have quick understanding, observe and listen well, and are receptive to new ideas and atmospheres (ideal!)

These qualities seem to fit in with life as a freelance translator, but there are also some less than ideal qualities listed, such as “a catlike appreciation of luxury and pleasure”, so manicures and cheesecake could prove a distraction!

What does your star sign say about you? Does your profile match with that of a translator?

Thanks to Marian for this interesting diversion! Vote in her poll here. You don’t have to be a translator, there’s a section for other professions too. I’d love to see how many Pisces language professionals there are out there!

Get Productive!

We all get translation exhaustion from time to time. It’s only to be expected. We’re either putting in the hours building our brand, networking, contacting prospective clients, keeping up with our working languages or working to keep up with client demand. Making the most of our time is one of the freelancer’s main challenges, which gives rise to the myriad of techniques people adopt.

I came across this post by Deidre Rienzo on the Creative Freelancer Blog, which let us in on her personal strategy when her motivation levels take a bit of a nosedive. As Deidre points out, action is the key, even if the action in question is a relatively small thing to kick-start your energy.

Here are a few of my favourite suggestions for picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and getting on with it:

• Find a prospective client who ticks all the points on your ‘perfect client’ checklist. Email or call them to introduce yourself.
• Call an existing client to check on an outstanding project, ask for a testimonial, or just to keep in touch.

These are just two ideas to escape ‘Wallowville’ to use Deidre’s term, but there are a number of other productivity hints and tips out there, including the Pomodoro technique, but that’s a story for another post.

What are your favourite little tasks that help get you motivated?

Why didn’t you say so?

Translation - Client RelationsOne of the most important lessons I have learnt in my experience as a translator, both in-house and freelance, is that communication really is the key when it comes to dealing with clients. (On a side note, that expression always seems so negative, don’t you think? I much prefer interacting with clients!)

One of the most vital steps in the translation process (aren’t they all?) is to check that the client is happy with the quality of your work, and of course your customer service! In my experience, your client may often have queries about terminology choices or wish to tweak the style of their message, but will not express this once they deem the job to be ‘finished’.

The truth is of course, that, being the consumately professional translator that you are, you are not happy until the client is happy. This means checking in with them a little while after each project is returned (and they have confirmed receipt of course) to ask if they have any comments or questions about the translation/transcreation/editing project. If they do, this is your chance to either explain your choices, or discuss alternatives. If they don’t however, it is a perfect time to ask for a testimonial for your website or other marketing materials – after all, they are very happy with your work, why not give them the opportunity to let the world know? 🙂

In more general terms, keeping in touch with clients you haven’t worked with in a while is always a good idea for two reasons:

1) You are showing them that they are valued clients, that you enjoy working with them and that you appreciate the personal relationship that you have built with them (“how are the wedding plans coming along?”, “how was your holiday in xyz?)”

2)You may gently nudge them into getting underway with a project that had been on the back burner. After all, we all have to make a living, don’t we? 😉