Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Translation and Minimalism: On Learning and Growing

The minimalist lifestyle is not an end point: it is a process.

It is a learning experience: you learn what you value the most, how to reduce clutter, and consequently how to be much happier! It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey. You identify what is truly essential to your life and what you can live without. It is about constantly challenging yourself. And in the course of this journey, you become more individual and flexible. Minimalism enriches your life and gives you a chance to grow.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey!

The same applies to translation: translation is not an end point, it is a process.

From the day you venture out into the world of translation, it is a learning experience: you constantly pick up new, fascinating aspects of translation and language as you go along. A colleague of mine once remarked that she loves translation so much because she learns something new every day.

Translation sets you off on a journey. You constantly have to challenge yourself: by digging deep into grammar technicalities; by absorbing feedback from revisers; by having a go at new types of text. And on this journey, with time, you become more flexible. Translation gives you a chance to grow.

All this isn’t easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Related posts on this blog:
20/6/2017: The Baffling Solution to Clearing Mental Clutter
10/5/2017:  Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism
7/2/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today
29/9/2014: My 3 Favourite Minimalist Principles
16/9/2011:  Top 10 Misconceptions about Translation and the Translation Profession

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brexit: Translated Article Goes Viral In UK

“If it weren't so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical.”

Last week a translated article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe went viral in the UK. It had been expertly translated by freelancer Paula Kirby and is based on an article written by Christian Zaschke, UK and Ireland correspondent for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest broadsheet newspaper.


An article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe has gone viral in the UK.


The article is an excellent summary of the current situation in regard to Brexit, and both the original and its translation are linguistically brilliant, so well worth checking out! You’ll find Paula Kirby's English translation here and the German source text in Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss newspaper, here. Christian Zaschke’s original comment appeared in Süddeutsche Zeitung and can be accessed here.


At the time of writing this blog entry, Paula Kirby's translation has 24K likes and 51,747 shares on Facebook.

Related posts on this blog:
12/9/2016: Brexit: Positives On The Horizon?
3/8/2016: What Brexit means (for now)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Baffling Solution to Clearing Mental Clutter

We all tend to always have something going on in our minds. Many of us even have voices inside our heads constantly telling us we should do this or that, reminding us of failures or setbacks, and building up clutter in our minds.

There is a bafflingly simple solution to dealing with mental clutter.

In our everyday lives, we are bombarded with information, news items, photos, e-mails, text messages and social media notifications. We’re incessantly haunted by must-do’s, ideas, plans, decisions, thoughts flitting back to past experiences, interactions with other people. We are constantly having to respond to requests.

I’ve found a baffling solution to dealing with such “mental clutter”: it consists in implementing “stateless practice”. It’s a fascinating concept that I’ve come across in one of Leo Babauta’s blog posts, which you can read here. A stateless protocol in computer programming is a communications protocol that treats each request as an independent transaction that is unrelated to any previous request (source: Wikipedia).

Leo Babauta suggests applying this concept of statelessness to our everyday lives: rather than constantly responding to a million requests, must-do’s and thoughts running around our heads, imagine they simply faded away into the ether... Imagine that no requests, must-do’s or thoughts were weighing down on your mind right now.

Statelessness involves letting go of all previous moments and instead focusing on what’s happening now: the task at hand; the activity you’re enjoying right now; the person in front of you. Imagine there’s nothing else pulling at your attention, nothing negative weighing you down, nothing draining energy out of you.

Try it! It really works!

Related posts on this blog:
22/6/2016: The Minimal To-Do List
10/5/2017: Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism

Monday, 22 May 2017

ITI Conference 2017

Conference buzz is the positive vibe you get from sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people over 2 days, to borrow an #ITIconf17 tweet by Aletta Stevens MITI. I’m sure anyone who’s just returned from the ITI conference in Cardiff, or indeed any previous ITI conference, will be able to relate to this!

This year’s ITI conference was held at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in the centre of Cardiff from 19th until 20th May 2017 and was entitled “Working our core: for a strong(er) translation and interpreting profession”. There had also been the option of attending a negotiation training workshop on the pre-conference day.

Conference buzz: sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people

Delegates had come from all over the UK and beyond. I'm based in Bristol, so travelling for me this time just involved cycling to the station and then embarking on a 45-minute train journey to Cardiff on Thursday evening.


The programme, as expected, was once again packed with talks, workshops as well as opportunities galore for networking and the exchange of profession-related experiences in an open and convivial atmosphere. It focused on issues faced by more established translators, with the second day’s agenda as varied as the first.

Throughout the conference I was constantly reminded of a comment by Cate Avery FITI in an edition of ITI Bulletin several years ago that conferences tend to open a window into current trends because of repeated references to particular topics. Cate, who incidentally was among the excellent line-up of speakers this time, had pointed out that you pick up on trends in our industry that way, perhaps without even realising it. So true!


One common theme that was running like a thread through some sessions was the relevance of collaboration as an emerging trend. It crystallised that the way forward seems to lie in collaboration in an environment where translators are working less and less in isolation or “in a bubble”, as Hugh Fraser put it in his session “Who’s afraid of feedback?”.

According to Hugh, all translators crave more feedback because it ultimately makes our work better. We should therefore embrace and welcome feedback as it’ll make our translations shine! Having said that, many of us flinch when receiving feedback since the idea of making mistakes can be scary. Hugh recommended that if you’re a feedback giver, you should regard the translator you give feedback to as a member of a team.


Collaboration was mentioned explicitly by Chris Durban FITI in her talk entitled “Scalability – headache, hurdle, Holy Grail”. Chris encouraged us to create and promote collaborative environments and to team up with others. Collaboration is key!

Collaboration obviously also is at the core of revising and editing others’ work, which was the theme of Marga Burke-Lowe MITI’s practical session on tips and tricks for improving our skills in this area. She talked us through many of the thorny issues that revisers and editors often face, either in the revision of translations or the editing of non-native writing.

The latter topic incidentally also was covered by Karen Tkaczyk FITI  in her talk entitled “A lucrative sideline: editing non-native scientific writing”. I did not attend the talk myself, but have heard that it was excellent. Check out the slides in this tweet by Rebecca Hendry MITI:


As a keen runner I'd been particularly looking forward to the conference run, which had been organised by Trinidad Clares MITI. Exercise, fresh air and some lovely sunshine were just what I needed after a very intense and stimulating first conference day! I enjoyed my run through Bute park in Cardiff in the company of fellow professionals.




Thank you to everyone involved in organising the conference for working so diligently to put together the programme, arrange the venue, find speakers, invite delegates and sort out fringe events. I realise a lot must have been going on behind the scenes! I feel that thanks are owed in particular to Anne de Freyman MITI, our chief executive Paul Wilson and Sarah Griffin-Mason MITI as well as the local organising committee, consisting of Lloyd Bingham MITI, Trinidad Clares MITI and Elvana Moore MITI.

It strikes me that the positive vibe that I referred to above will likely carry us along in our daily work lives and will help us, to quote from the conference programme, continue to improve and thrive for some time to come!


And finally, given the theme of the blog you’re just visiting, it will probably not surprise you that I was pleased to even encounter two references to minimalism at the conference:

Firstly, Marga Burke Lowe MITI mentioned in her revision/workshop session that Brian Mossop, who has written a book about revision for translators, in general advocates a minimalist approach. I published a short blog post on minimalism in revision last year here. For an in-depth look at revision for translators do check out Nikki Graham MITI’s blog post series on the topic here.


Secondly, minimalism was implicitly also referred to by Sarah Silva MITI in her brilliantly and entertainingly delivered TED talk entitled “Uncork your potential”. Sarah suggested we set ourselves an exercise in which we pare down the long list of aims for our businesses: first by listing what’s most important to us (one word per aim!) and second by picking just the three most important. It reminded me of a similar approach to to-do lists, which I described in a blog post here.

Claire Cox MITI, Alison Hindley MITI, Richard Lackey and Chloe Jones from Surrey Translation Bureau have also blogged about the event. Check out their articles here:
- A Truly Capital Event (by Claire Cox)
- Beyond Words and Back Again at the ITI Conference: 18 – 20 May 2017 (by Alison Hindley)
- Co-working (by Richard Lackey)
- ITI Conference 2017 An in-house translator's view (by Chloe Jones)

And Alexander Drechsel has produced a brilliant video on the ITI conference 2017! Watch it here:


Related posts on this blog:
27/04/2015: ITI Conference 2015
14/05/2011: ITI Conference 2011
20/05/2009: ITI Conference 2009

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism

“You’re a what?” When I say to people “I’m a translator”, I often receive the same funny, incredulous, but also curious looks as when I say to them, “I’m a minimalist”. Myths and misconceptions about both translation and minimalism are very widespread.

Let me set the record straight: being a minimalist does not mean that I own just 100 things. This is perhaps the most widespread misconception about minimalism. There are, in fact, very few minimalists out there who do own just 100 things.

Minimalism is about reducing excess and living mindfully.

There are so many aspects to minimalism that if I wanted to list them, I wouldn’t know where to begin. So I’ll give just a few examples: minimalism is about reducing excess in all its guises, reclaiming our time, pursuing our greatest passions, and living mindfully. Minimalism is all about efficiency, clarity and simplicity. It offers fantastic tips for decluttering our homes and offices, but it is also about “decluttering our minds”.

As for translation, note this: being a translator does not mean that I translate speech orally for parties who converse in different languages. Translation and interpreting are similar activities. However, they are also fundamentally different in that an interpreter handles the spoken word, whereas a translator works with the written word!

There are so many aspects to working as a translator and the complex matter of translation that I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to list them. To give a basic definition: translation is about deciphering and understanding the meaning behind words in both general and specialised texts, and expressing it clearly in the target language.

And no, human translators have not been replaced by computers: it is actually looking more and more likely that they never will be. Human translators are very busy people. Only humans ultimately are capable of tackling the linguistic, grammar, research or cultural challenges that typically arise in translating for the professional world.

Misconceptions about both translation and minimalism abound. But there is indeed so much more to translation and minimalism than meets the eye! Hence my motivation to blog about translation and minimalism here.

Related posts on this blog:
22/6/2016: The Minimal To-Do List
15/2/2015: 5 Common Misconceptions about Minimalists
29/9/2014: My 3 Favourite Minimalist Principles
27/1/2014: Human translators: Do we really need them?
16/9/2011: Top 10 Misconceptions about Translation and the Translation Profession

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Minimalist Blogging: Why I Don’t Have Comments

I love blogging as it gives me a chance to practise, hone and polish my writing.

But I do not allow comments. Here’s why: it would take me way too much time to think about replies to comments, let alone write them out. And by the time the first comments came in, my thoughts would already have turned to the next big thing: my next work project, my next blog post, the next task on my list.

Like you, I am a busy person, and I have therefore implemented minimalism in many areas of my life. I’ve implemented minimalism in my blogging, too: I don’t blog often, I aim to write short(er) blog posts in future, and I don’t allow comments. And I’d like to keep it that way.

Implementing minimalism in blogging

As a translator, I already spend way too much time at the computer. So I’ve taken measures to minimise my screen time. Engaging in discussion on the content of my blog posts would take me in the completely opposite direction.

Bestselling author, entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin doesn’t have comments on his blog either. In his post “Why I don’t have comments”, he explains why. You may also want to check out his post
“10 Lessons Seth Godin Can Teach You About Blogging”.

Related posts on this blog:
17/01/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today
16/03/2016: 8 Proven Ways of Minimising Screen Time
12/01/2016: 8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post
23/10/2014: Should translators blog?
06/06/2013: How wide is your web presence?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Minimalism in Introverts’ Work Environments

Funnily, one of the things that first comes to mind when I think of translators in connection with minimalism is the observation that many (but not all) of us translators are introverts: we don’t crave the same doses of external stimulation as our extrovert peers, but generally prefer to keep the arousal of external stimuli to a minimum.

Working with maximum immersion and minimal distraction

We’re okay with minimal person-to-person interaction. Although human contact is also vital to us like food and drink, we are completely fine with less social interaction and find solitude revitalising. Therefore we are usually very happy working away on long texts in front of our computers all week – with maximum immersion and minimal distraction.

Given the above, it is hardly surprising that translator is listed among the best 15 jobs for introverts in a recent article entitled “15 Best Jobs for Introverts” published on Business News Daily or in the article entitled “Twenty High Paying Jobs For Introverts” on personalityclub.com.


Links to great articles:
- Why Introverts and Extroverts Are Different: The Science (quietrev.com)
- The Minimalist Introvert: In Praise Of Going Deep (louderminds.com)
- How to Understand an Introvert, Explained by Introjis (huffingtonpost.com)
- 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World (huffingtonpost.com)
- 10 Things That Don’t Make Sense To Introverts (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Best Jobs for Introverts (businessnewsdaily.com)
- Twenty High Paying Jobs For Introverts (personalityclub.com)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today

Following on from my previous post on “5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today”, here are 5 things I’d do exactly the same again.

If I were starting out as a translator again today, I would…

1) … join a translators’ association early on.

I have benefitted greatly from the support, advice and sense of community from my professional association in the UK, the ITI. I have, frankly, never again felt alone as a translator ever since I joined, and many of my colleagues have become real friends. Translation certainly isn’t the lonely profession it is sometimes perceived to be!

2) … complete a business skills course for translators.

I know I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if I hadn’t participated in the ITI’s Peer Support Group in 2007 (or SUFT as it is now known). Not only did I pick up many vital skills on how to succeed as a freelance translator, I also gained the necessary confidence and self-belief that I was previously lacking.


Picking up vital skills on how to succeed as a freelance translator

3) … pinpoint an area (or areas) to translate in.

From marketing to literature to patents, the range of areas that translators work in is vast. It was therefore extremely difficult as a budding translator to make a decision on what area(s) to specialise in. A specialist area has to be something that you’re willing to learn more about – even in your free time. For me, a “side effect” of translating IT-related texts has been to take up learning computer programming. (I’m currently trying to get my head around the basics of PHP 7.)

4) …spend my hard-earned cash on as many specialised dictionaries as possible.

I still remember all the parcels with specialised dictionaries (read: books containing terminology that you cannot find for free on the internet) being delivered to my door. The slim Uexküll dictionary for patent translation alone, for example, cost a whopping 98 euros. With hindsight, though, it was money well spent.

5) …aim to become, and stay, a freelancer.

If I were starting out again today, I would probably try to find an in-house position as a translator for a while, since I’ve heard you do pick up a lot of useful knowledge to equip yourself with in your career. I would then, however, move on and become a freelancer. The self-employed lifestyle comes with many perks: complete flexibility, working hours that suit you, charging rates that you feel are appropriate, working with clients you choose etc.

With hindsight, I realise I did take some good decisions as I was starting out. I am deeply grateful for my amazing colleagues, and all the clients who I work with are lovely –  I feel really privileged!

Related posts on this blog:
17/1/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today
30/11/2015:  ITI German network Christmas party 2015
6/6/2015: ITI WRG IT & CAT Tools Day 
27/4/2015: ITI Conference 2015
30/11/2014: Looking forward to the ITI Conference 2015
30/5/2012: Tech Startup School 2012

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today

If I were starting out as a translator again today, I would…

1) …not give my work e-mail address to family members or friends.


Nowadays I receive only critical, strictly work-related e-mail during the day. But believe me: achieving this clear-cut separation between work and personal e-mail has taken me a very long time. Ruthless e-mail management has become vital to helping me focus properly on work projects and minimise e-mail distraction.

2) … not ignore all the fantastic features that translation software offers.

I bought Trados back in 2007 and as a translation newbie I would invest in translation software straight away again. However, I would not stop at just grasping its basic features, but endeavour to learn about every single aspect so as to benefit more from access to terminology, automation, and efficiency. As I am about to switch (from an outdated version) to the latest MemoQ release, this is something at the top of my to-do list!

3) …not accept translations that I feel uncomfortable with.

For newcomers to the profession it is natural to also take on projects they’re not completely familiar with. It is, after all, a way of putting out your feelers and assessing which subject areas are up your street and which aren’t. Speaking for myself, though, I would not accept any texts if it were crystal-clear beforehand that I was not happy with the subject, or just because somebody was desperate to place a project.



We should consciously enjoy work-free time!

4) …not worry during slack periods, but enjoy time off!

I have been a translator for 10 years, so slack periods with no assignments in my order book have long been a thing of the past. Clearly, marketing is very important. However, if I were a fledgling translator again, I would not engage in marketing as frantically as I used to during slack periods. Nor would I worry about whether new projects would be landing on my desk again soon. Instead, I would consciously enjoy work-free time!


5) …not start a translation blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading other translators’ blogs because I can learn so much from them and because they always tend to be very well-written! Also, I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from blogging myself. However, I’ve come round to the belief that maintaining a blog on translation-related issues isn’t essential to building a successful translation business. There are other, less time-consuming (more minimal!) ways to achieve this.

Given my blog theme, it is hardly surprising that the thinking behind this post is based largely on minimalist aims: the minimisation of screen time; less time spent on tasks; as well as more efficiency and joy!


Related posts on this blog:
7/2/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today
16/3/2016: 8 Proven Ways of Minimising Screen Time
12/1/2016: 8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post
11/2/2015: Working from home – and getting things done!
12/10/2014: Should translators blog?

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Minimalist Approach to the Shoebox Appeal

In my community in Emersons Green it is a tradition to pack a shoebox (or two or three) with Christmas gifts and useful items in November every year for the Shoebox Appeal charity. The boxes are wrapped and then sent to underprivileged children worldwide, this year to South Africa and Namibia. Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is a scheme run by the Christian relief and development agency Samaritan’s Purse.


When you look up the hashtag #ipackedashoebox on Twitter, you’ll be able to see who has participated in this campaign and how much joy goes into shopping for gifts, goodies and other things. But it also involves bringing all the things back home, filling the shoebox with them, donating £3 per box for the shipping, printing off the label as required, sticking it onto the box and, as a last step, taking it with you to your church or dropping it off at one of the local collection points.

A wonderful project and a very worthwhile cause, no doubt about that! However, this year I reached a stage where I suddenly thought: hold on, do I really want to take part in it? It’s not just that I don’t have the time to go shopping, I also simply do not enjoy going shopping in general. And I especially do not enjoy shopping for toys! So why should I force myself to do it? Taking part just because everyone else was doing it suddenly felt wrong...

This year I went straight to the Operation Christmas Child website instead and donated £18 for a pre-packed shoebox. The whole process took just 6 minutes, including filing the donation receipt away for my tax records. No stress, no hassle. It was basically my minimalist approach to the Shoebox Appeal.

This has set me thinking about the many things that we tend to do just because others do them too or (we think) are expected from us. Very often, we forget that we’re free to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters. They’re decisions that we should feel good about, rather than guilty or apologetic! Not everyone enjoys shopping. We do have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently.

Sounds familiar? Here are typical ways of thinking that tend to be imposed on us in connection with running a translation business:

All translators should work with translation memory software (aka CAT tools) to increase their productivity and have their own website to attract more business.
Hold on, should they really? While I can’t imagine life without translation memory software and believe my website is a great tool for presenting my business to the outside world, I know quite a few translators with very healthy businesses who are absolutely fine without CAT tools and/or websites.


We have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently!

You should work and be available for clients from 9 to 5, whereas working during evenings and/or weekends is to be avoided as it gives the impression you’re not committed or organised enough.

I have forced myself to stop thinking that way. In fact, I now believe as freelancers we are free to make the most of the “free” in freelancing. What’s wrong, for example, with meeting up with a friend for a coffee in the morning and then catch up on work in the afternoon/evening? Or with making a head start on a work project at the weekend?

Too many translators still charge per 1,000 words, rather than per hour. This must change at all costs; it is unprofessional.
In one of my older blog posts entitled “Bugged by misconceptions on translation?”, I even claimed this practice reflects badly on the actual activity of translation. But does it really? Today, I confess that I live comfortably on an income for which I charge per 1,000 words. And it is an approach I want to hold on to!

You should not build up a business while raising young children.
Now is the time to admit it: it is exactly what I did. Yes, I’d heard this wasn’t advisable, but today, with hindsight, that feat now seems like a tremendous achievement. I managed to do it by delegating tasks, with the help of childminders, and by constantly refining my time management skills in the best way I could.

It is generally better to work for direct clients than for translation companies.
I, for one, am very grateful for the steady flow of work from the translation companies that I work for, whereas direct clients typically do not tend to be a source of regular work. Due to my regular dealings with some translation companies, I sometimes almost even feel like one of their employees – a feeling I admit I quite like!

Remember: we do have a right to be different, handle situations differently, work differently.

The 2016 Shoebox Appeal campaign has ended, but if you fancy taking part in the Shoebox Appeal next year, either by filling a shoebox yourself (if you enjoy shopping!) or by choosing the pre-packed shoebox option, visit the Operation Christmas Child website here for more information.

Related posts on this blog:
18/12/2015: Christmas 2015
3/11/2015: How Successful Women Make the Most of their Time
11/02/2015: Working from home – and getting things done!
23/10/2013: Bugged by misconceptions about translation?
10/12/2012: The translating parent

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Invigorating Effects of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

As a translator, it is easy to be minimalist: minimal equipment is needed. I rely less on paper dictionaries nowadays as they are increasingly replaced by electronic ones. And I can make out large invoices for translations in files whose sizes are, in actual fact, minimal.

What’s more, I can be minimalist by staying within my comfort zone, for example by accepting only types of work that I am used to. By relying on the regular stream of work from my (relatively minimal) group of main clients. And, although that may seem a bit daft, by turning new clients away – just because I feel uneasy about venturing outside my comfort zone.

One of the articles on Claire Cox’s blog which did strike a chord with me recently was “Above the parapet”, in which she describes how stepping outside your comfort zone from time to time helps you grow both as a person and as a business. I agree with Claire that it is good for us to sometimes do things that we tend to be anxious about: such opportunities make us reassess our abilities and prove that we can do it, if we try!

Stepping outside your comfort zone can feel like a tremendous achievement.

One such opportunity for me arose last year when I was asked to give a short presentation on IntelliWebSearch several times to groups of translators at an IT and CAT Tools Day organised by the WRG. I’ve always hated speaking in front of other people, so the mere thought of having to talk all afternoon was enough to strike fear into my heart.

With hindsight, though, I am so glad I said yes and went for it! It felt like a tremendous achievement that I’d addressed that big challenge – successfully, and even with positive feedback from attendees! Check out my blog post on the WRG's IT and CAT Tools Day on 6 June 2015 here.

I’ve also always made a point of emphasizing that I only translate. As a point of principle, I do not interpret. “I DO NOT OFFER INTERPRETING SERVICES” is written in capital letters on my website. I’m not trained as an interpreter, I don’t like talking in general, and I simply won’t do it.

Guess what happened last summer? While on holiday in Northern Italy, I suddenly found myself having to interpret between German and Italian in a police station in Asti: our tour group’s coach had been robbed, and no one else in our group knew any Italian...

I hadn’t actually used my spoken Italian much since I left university more than a decade ago. Also, the temperature outside had just risen to 41 (!) degrees Celsius. Luckily, the air conditioning inside the police station did work (otherwise my brain would probably not have functioned!).

So here I was, totally unprepared, way out of my comfort zone as the impromptu interpreter, in a nerve-wracking situation. And yet: I was okay doing this. What’s more, after a while – and to my great astonishment  –  I realised that I was even enjoying myself! I could actually do it!

Asti in Piedmont in Northern Italy

Pushing yourself to do things that you feel uncomfortable with can only ever be a good thing. We often naturally retreat to our personal comfort zones as a way to minimize stress and risk; yet stepping out of them can be invigorating, while the discomfort that goes with it is often just minimal.

Clinging to the known and staying within my minimalist comfort zone may have seemed like a fair enough thing for me to do as I was going through a deep and prolonged personal crisis recently (I even forgot about Brexit!). However, as I have now forced myself to step out of that crisis, there is genuine reason to look again to the future, strike out on new adventures, and maybe even forge those new client relationships?

Related posts on this blog:
6/6/2015: ITI WRG IT & CAT Tools Day
14/11/2014: Geeks, Nerds, and Translators
23/10/2014: Should translators blog?

Monday, 12 September 2016

Brexit: Positives On The Horizon?

I am one of the estimated 3.5 million EU immigrants in the UK who were “voted out” in the EU referendum on 23 June 2016.

I am a German freelance translator, so I can’t be blamed for taking somebody else’s job away since I created my job myself. And although other EU immigrants haven’t created jobs themselves, whether they’re doctors or fruit-pickers, they’re still needed.

I am far from being entitled to tax credits and I don't receive a penny in benefits of any kind. In fact, according to HMRC statistics, EU and EEA nationals on the whole pay more in income tax and national insurance contributions than they take out in tax credits and benefits (source).

My business has thrived in the UK’s current economic climate. I don’t just work for UK companies, but also have clients overseas, and any taxes earned on foreign income I pay to the UK tax office.

Yet my foreign accent doesn’t reveal any of this.

I have always enjoyed living in the UK – and not just for economic reasons – but the atmosphere has changed now. Suddenly it's become a bit awkward to be a foreigner here. And this has clearly never been an issue for me before.

I am no longer interested in applying for a Permanent Residence Card under UK immigration rules, filling in an 85-page form for this, waiting (maybe for years) for my passport and papers to be returned to me and to hear if I’ve been accepted, and then (optionally) naturalising as a British citizen, which would not just be expensive, but also include having to pass a ridiculous “Living in Britain” exam. No thanks.

My Polish translator colleague Kasia has rightly pointed out that whatever happens with regard to Brexit, we will always have plenty of options. So that is definitely a good thing and worth bearing in mind.

Horizon: Crossing the English Channel on 6 August 2016

It may all be doom and gloom at present, but I am no longer shocked by what I learnt on 24 June; in fact, I now find it even rather amusing to follow the latest Brexit news. (Some of it at least; some of it clearly isn’t.)

I would be sad having to leave all my British friends, but relocating to continental Europe has all of a sudden become a real option. Brexit for me therefore acts as a motivating force to engage in some marketing and forge and rekindle relationships with clients on the continent.

On a more humorous note, since as a minimalist I do not necessarily need to earn lots of money to spend on stuff any more, it would not even hurt so much if I suffered income losses following any disastrous economic consequences post-Brexit. As a minimalist, I would be okay with less money in my pocket.

One thing is for sure, though: Despite all the current uncertainty, international trade will continue, so there is still plenty that we as language professionals can do in practical terms even now. And who knows: Brexit may actually open up new interesting business opportunities for some of us – also in light of the weakening pound.

So, amidst all Brexit worries, if we try very hard, we may be able to see at least some positives on the horizon!

Related posts on this blog:
3/8/2016: What Brexit means (for now)
23/6/2016: 23 June 2016: The UK votes to leave the EU

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What Brexit means (for now)

Brexit has been on my mind ever since I woke up at 3.20 am on 24th June 2016 and switched on the TV to check which way the EU referendum vote was going. At this time of night, it didn't really hit home with me what was happening. It all still felt surreal.

The next morning, as I was listening to an interview on Deutschlandradio, the radio host's comment did feel like a punch in the stomach: “Also, die Zukunft Europas – ab jetzt ohne die Briten?” (English translation: “So, the future of Europe – without the British from now on?”)

EU flag outside flat, spotted close to the City of London last week 

I would really have liked to write something on the topic myself, but since I'm currently inundated with work, I’m going to share with you instead what four of my colleagues have posted on their blogs in regard to the current situation and what Brexit means (for now at least). Amanda Wilson, Karen Andrews, Simon Berrill and Claire Cox have kindly agreed to let me use extracts from their articles for this blog entry.



Vote Leave campaign sign, found lying in grass along my jogging route in Shortwood near Bristol

Amanda Wilson:

I know that as a translator I probably should be 100% convinced that we should stay in the EU and so know exactly how I’m going to vote in June. But there’s nothing wrong without finding out more info to add to the gut instinct…So this is what I learned about why Brexit matters.

[...]

Looking at it the other way round, how would we have felt about decisions made in the wake of the financial crisis on the financial services sector, a big employer in the UK, if we had had to sit on the sidelines with no influence over the outcome? What will it be like in the future, trading with EU countries and having to obey EU regulations which we have not helped shape and which we may not agree with, much as Norway’s situation is now? And what about our position in the world? The Empire is long gone and the Americans would prefer we stay in the EU, suits their interests better – how much of that is because we speak English, I wonder? – so it seems that to continue to lead, we need to be in the EU where our position is stronger than as a single state. Certainly that’s what the pro-Europe camp think; their slogan is ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’.

Extract from Amanda’s post “Why Brexit Matters”, published on 15 February 2016


Vote Remain campaign sign in window, spotted during walk through London last week

Karen Andrews: 

Friday came as a shock to me as many in the UK. On Thursday night, I thought ‘Bremain’ had narrowly won the EU Referendum. There was a niggling feeling in my gut. I woke up on Friday morning to the profound shock of Brexit. No, it’s more than that. My heart is torn in two.

[...]

I woke up on Friday morning to a map of the UK that looked like a civil war. Britain divided between regions and generations.

Angela Merkel said that she does not want Brexit to be ‘nasty’. The European Union should note that the UK’s young people voted to remain in Europe. A nasty divorce will alienate them.

My 19-year-old son was disappointed. He went to Denmark last week. He was planning to go to Berlin, Stockholm and Barcelona this summer. It’s great to travel while young. It broadens the mind. My elder son is part of a generation that is open to Europe. He will remain so if the ‘divorce’ is handled with equanimity and an eye to future ‘rapprochement’. Will Europe restrict his travelling in future?

My 16-year-old son (who did not have a right to vote) was even more scathing about the election result. It is wrong to assume that his age group is not politically aware. The younger generation get their information from different sources to their parents and grandparents.

[...]

The European dream grew out of the chaos of two world wars. Today’s political chaos is an opportunity to create a new European dream for generations to come.

Extract from Karen’s post “Brexit and the European Dream”, published on on 26 June 2016




Statement by David Cameron on BBC News on 24 June 2016

Simon Berrill:


I suppose going on holiday the day after the referendum result was known was probably the best way to cope with the entire Brexit mess. Swimming in the beautiful Ionian Sea and drying off on the beaches of Corfu, I had plenty of time to think about how Britain leaving the European Union is going to affect me and what I’m going to do about it. Theories of all kinds have been published about whether the United Kingdom will actually go through with the mandate to cut itself off from Europe provided by the referendum result, but in planning my future I have to assume that it will, and that all the advantages I have enjoyed as an EU citizen living in another country will end within the next couple of years.

Professionally, as I wrote earlier this year in a blog post anticipating the possibility of Brexit, I don’t think there will be a great effect on my work. It seems that Ireland, although its official language is Irish, will ensure that English remains an EU language, and it is already so well established as the main working language for the Community, understood by the maximum number of people, that this seems unlikely to change. Can anyone imagine, for example, the French or the Germans agreeing that all official documents shold be drawn up in the other’s language? Trade in both directions will also doubtless continue, although it will probably be reduced. In less official circles, too, the position of English as a lingua franca of tourism, for example, is unlikely to be threatened. Although travel to and from the UK could become more difficult, it hardly seems likely that the inhabitants of even a more isolated Britain will stop visiting the continent. Other translators in different specialist areas may be much worse affected, of course, and they have my every sympathy. To have your livelihood damaged by the whim of a perfidious electorate (unless, of course, you’re a politician, of course) is a cruel and undeserved blow.

Extract from Simon’s post “From Englishman to British-born European”, published on 5 July 2016



Claire Cox:

A month on, and I’m still desperately sad about the outcome of the vote. As a linguist, I feel very much a European and loved the freedom I enjoyed to work and study abroad and feel part of something bigger. Returning to an isolationist and NIMBYish outlook seems such a retrograde step. The immediate shock has calmed down, of course, despite the incredible political shenanigans since the last days of June. Yes, my share portfolio plummeted in the first instance, although I noticed today that it has recovered half of its losses in the meantime, and those of us paid in euros into a British bank account will be receiving rather more than before the referendum due to the falling pound – although I’d much rather the result had gone the other way! For the time being, at least, we are still part of the EU; our new prime minister has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and life goes on much as it did before. I did wonder whether there would be a change in workload in the immediate aftermath of the vote, but if anything I seem to have been busier than ever, turning lots of work down and receiving a constant stream of enquiries, even in the often quieter midsummer holiday period.

How things will pan out in future is anyone’s guess; many of my colleagues are EU nationals who have made their home in Britain and their future now seems uncertain despite government assurances. It will be such a shame if future language students are unable to partake of the Erasmus scheme and study/work abroad as freely as I and my son after me have been able to. Equally, although it seems likely that English will remain the official language of the EU even after our ignominious departure, since it is also the language of Ireland and Malta, it may not be as easy for British nationals to work in or for the EU Translations Directorate – another great loss. It’s certainly going to be a challenging few years, but for the time being, I think we can only carry on as we did before, making sure our client order books are as diverse as possible so that any changes that do come about don’t leave us bereft. Definitely a time for spreading your eggs across lots of different baskets….

Extract from Claire’s post “A change is as good as a rest”, published on 28 July 2016


Related posts on this blog:
3/7/2016: The UK votes to leave the EU
12/9/2016: Brexit: Positives On The Horizon?