Sunday, 17 December 2017

The minimalist way of dealing with criticism

When someone upsets or criticises you, what’s your usual reaction? Which coping mechanism do you use?

As I was leafing through the OM Yoga Magazine edition in which my article about my Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth had been published, I was thrilled to find an article contribution by Leo Babauta in it. Leo Babauta is an American minimalist, who writes extensively about minimalism.

It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share with you a fantastic, easily implementable way of how not to bother when someone is inconsiderate towards you or criticises you. Leo Babauta sets out this coping mechanism in his e-book, “The Little Book of Contentment”:

Leo argues that the problem never is the other person’s actions: instead the problem is your reaction, or rather your action based on that reaction. He contends that other people’s actions, such as rude behaviour or unfair criticism, are just an outside stimulus.

Other people’s actions are like a leaf falling outside, or a rock falling in front of us on a mountain path. Isn’t his analogy just brilliant? Ponder this: when a rock falls, we don’t get angry at the rock, we go around it to continue on our way!

Criticism is like a rock falling in front of you in the mountains

I’m allowed to share this tip with you as Leo’s e-book is uncopyrighted. Accordingly, no permission is required to copy, reuse or quote the text of his book.

Leo Babauta suggests dealing with criticism by thinking of it as a rock falling in front of you in the mountains: go around it, carry on walking and forget about it. Simple.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Christmas 2017 donation to OneDollarGlasses

Dear blog readers, merry Christmas and very best wishes for 2018!

In the same minimalist vein as in previous years, I have once again donated to a charity instead of spending money on Christmas cards and gifts.

Over 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it

I have chosen the OneDollarGlasses aid scheme. Since I suspect I will need glasses myself soon, it appeals to me a lot. This aid organisation is based in Erlangen in Germany (where, incidentally, I‘d lived for a few years before I moved to the UK in 2003).

Worldwide, more than 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it. They can not learn, can not work and can not provide for their families. OneDollarGlasses consist of a lightweight, flexible spring steel frame and prefab lenses and can be locally manufactured with simple bending machines. The material costs: approximately 1 US $ (source: OneDollarGlasses website).

If this charitable cause appeals to you too, you can donate to OneDollarGlasses here.

You can find the German translation of this blog entry here.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference

In a world in which machine translation (MT) is becoming ubiquitous, the theme of the 17th Portsmouth Translation Conference “Translation and Disruption: Global and Local Perspectives” on 4 November 2017, at which MT attracted special attention, couldn’t have been more topical. It brought together translation researchers and students, language professionals and industry stakeholders, who were all keen to discuss human and the latest technological aspects of translation.

Isn’t it stunning how often the word “magic” appears in descriptions of Neural Machine Translation (NMT)? NMT already outperforms Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). However, the mechanisms of NMT are indeed so complicated that often its intricacies are not even fully understood by its developers. According to Prof. Dorothy Kenny from Dublin City University, one of the keynote speakers, the most worrying part of NMT therefore is its opacity, which opens the door to error and misuse.

Sarah Griffin-Mason, ITI chair and senior lecturer in translation studies at the University of Portsmouth, enthused us with her optimism about the future of professional translators and interpreters. Without a doubt, there will always be sectors with a need for premium suppliers. She encouraged us to make a big noise about what we humans do – what machines can’t do – and why we’re so brilliant!

The conference was rich in insights and furthered an understanding of the underlying issues of machine translation and what’s at stake for language professionals. The way forward amidst the impending disruption seems to lie in adapting appropriately to the challenges ahead. In other words, we need to work out “where we fit” – and then communicate this clearly to clients!

The 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference focused on machine translation

In summary, the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference provided a powerful glimpse into the future of translation and interpreting. I came away from it feeling passionate about my profession and confident that, despite the recent hype about Neural Machine Translation, a safe future exists for all translation and interpreting professionals who remain committed to the cause.

It was generally felt that, although machine translation might fundamentally change how we work, the overall outlook remains positive. There seemed to be a general consensus that machine translation is no longer to be looked down upon as a “dirty” activity, as it is perceived by many in the industry. Finally, it should no longer be regarded as the taboo issue that no one wants (or dares) to talk about.

The overall outlook for translation and interpreting remains positive

You can find out more about the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference by looking up the hashtag #2017portxl8 on Twitter.

I've written a more in-depth article about this conference, which will appear in the January/February 2018 issue of the ITI Bulletin.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

I am in OM Yoga Magazine this month!

I am excited to report that an article about my recent Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth in South Devon, which I had originally written for the ITI German network’s newsletter, has just been published in the October edition of OM Yoga Magazine

Find my Jala Flow Yoga retreat article on pages 125-126

Translators and other desk-bound workers often suffer from neck, shoulder or back pain as a result of working and sitting hunched in front of their computer screens in an unnatural position over prolonged periods.

Find out why I think yoga is excellent for easing and releasing tension and stiffness, why I wholeheartedly recommend a yoga retreat with Tom and Louise Hunt from Jala Flow Yoga, and how I even almost forgot about my minimalist principles during my stay in Sidmouth!

Order your copy of OM Yoga Magazine, in which you’ll find my article on pages 125-126, here. Or contact me to request your free copy of my article as a PDF.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

DeepL: Tool or threat for translators?

The end of August saw the launch of DeepL, a new machine translation tool developed by Cologne-based start-up DeepL GmbH (formerly Linguee GmbH). It was born from Linguee, a translation tool that has been around for some years and is a popular resource amongst us translators.

DeepL apparently performs better than any of its rivals’ products because it’s based on the relatively new Neural Machine Translation (NMT) approach, in which the processing of data is modelled on thought processes as they occur in the human brain. Its makers also claim to have created one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, conveniently located in Iceland (where electricity costs are lower than elsewhere).

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is modelled on thought processes in the human brain

Curious about these latest developments in machine translation (MT), I incorporated DeepL into my own work last week so I could familiarise myself with it. Since I’d heard it supposedly is excellent at what it does, I started off my experiment with a bit of a feeling of dread in my stomach. I was soon relieved, though, when I realised it’s basically yet just another tool. However, unlike many of its predecessors, it produces some output that is actually usable!

Having said that, I also encountered severe (in some text types potentially even dangerous!) issues in the DeepL MT output. They may seem minor or insignificant if you don’t work with language professionally; yet in translation for the commercial world they do matter. They do, in fact, matter very much!

I’m going to list a handful of these issues from the patent I was translating assisted by DeepL. (Note that for this article I’ve deliberately picked just shorter sentences or terms from shorter sentences, as DeepL couldn’t cope with longer sentences or shorter sentences with more convoluted syntax.)

“In one embodiment, the guide tube 106 includes an opening 105 on a first end which receives the medications.”
Although I was supplied with a sentence in perfect German grammar, so at first sight there seemed nothing wrong with it, DeepL had incorrectly assumed that the relative pronoun refers back to “a first end”, whereas its actual antecedent is “an opening”.

“treatment of the surface of the guide tube 106 that comes in contact with the pill
Here we have the same issue as above: The antecedent of the relative pronoun “that” in this particular context is “surface”, i.e. not “guide tube”, because the surface comes into contact with the pill. How can a computer decide what the antecedent of a relative pronoun is? It can’t.

“The shape of the guide tube 106, the orientation of the guide tube 106 to the force of gravity or other source of force, and the coefficients of friction and drag can be specifically designed to orient the axis of each pill in the direction of travel or with the axis of the tube 106.
“direction of travel” was nonsensically translated by DeepL as “Fahrtrichtung”, which would, of course, be the correct term in automotive contexts, whereas here it simply means the pill is moving in a particular direction.

Translated by DeepL as “Rillen”. Further down in the text, though, and especially when I looked at the technical drawings, it became clear that “Erhöhungen” or a synonymous term is more appropriate because the ridges on the internal (i.e. not the external) surface are described.

“low-distortion transparent material
Translated by DeepL as “verzerrungsarmes transparentes Material”, which does not make sense here since “low-distortion” in this particular context simply means the material in question isn’t prone to becoming deformed. (Also, DeepL omitted the important comma between the two adjectives in German.)

“cameras with fast shutters
Translated by DeepL as “Kameras mit schnellen Shuttern”; however, people working in this field tend to call them “Ultrakurzzeitkameras”.

“System 700 includes an image analyzer 704 and includes or has access to an image database 706.
Translated by DeepL as “Das System 700 verfügt über einen Bildanalysator 704 und eine Bilddatenbank 706”. Although the sentence is correct grammatically and sort of conveys the meaning, leaving out parts of a sentence is a no-go, especially in patent translation.

“In one embodiment, the light sources are continuous.
Translated by DeepL as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen durchgehend”. The grammar is impeccable, yet the sentence sounds odd. A human translator would likely opt for a more technically sounding translation such as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen Dauerlichtquellen.”

Translated by DeepL by “Optiken” in the plural. Difficult for a computer to get right, but Germans tend to use the term in the singular here to refer to an assembly of optical elements.

“electrophoresis (e.g., capillary)
Translated by DeepL as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillare)”. A human translator would likely elaborate a bit and render the whole phrase as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillarelektrophorese)” as otherwise it all somehow doesn’t fit together.

“limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed
“forms” was translated by DeepL literally as “Formen”. In this particular sentence, however, its meaning in the patent is “embodiments” or “forms of embodiment”, so it really should have been output as “Ausführungsformen” (or “Ausführungen”, which is even more common in patents originally drafted in German).

Following my experiment, I can confirm DeepL is indeed more precise and nuanced than any of the other machine translations that I’ve previously seen floating around the internet. So should we translators see DeepL as a threat? Will it disrupt the translation industry? I don’t believe it will. Machine translation is becoming more and more widespread, but: I am convinced human input will always be required for many text types.

For any change that looks potentially disruptive, there is both threat and opportunity. It’s ultimately all about how we respond to such changes! It’s also worth remembering there is a shortage of translators (read: good translators) across the board, while translation volumes are increasing year by year. So there is no other way than additionally employing machine translation for all the easier-to-handle-texts that require to be translated.

Machine translation or MT (also often referred to as instant, automated or automatic translation) was pioneered in the 1950s, and although this has taken a very long time, machines are gradually becoming better at translating. We have to acknowledge they are now no longer producing the hopeless gibberish of the early days of MT.

I have until recently been sceptical about the viability of post-editing machine translations as a new field of work in professional translation, simply because the MT output has typically been poor. But following these latest developments, I wonder if it is now worth exploring a bit more? Although DeepL hasn’t set out its vision yet, I wouldn’t mind if DeepL was made available for professionals at some stage – perhaps as a plug-in in the CAT software that we use?

If computers are indeed becoming more and more capable of taking over the boring bits of our work, then this can only be a welcome move forward. For it’ll mean we will at last be able to concentrate and spend more time on the bits in our texts that are actually interesting, that are blissfully complex and therefore worth getting our teeth into!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Super-easy decluttering for busy people

Are you always too busy for decluttering? The unbeatable solution to that dilemma: simply commit to chucking one item per day. It’s an approach that is simple, super-fast, and won’t disrupt your day.

The One-A-Day-Declutter approach has been part of my daily routine ever since I started out on the minimalism journey back in April 2014. It has helped me reduce my unnecessary possessions – one by one, drastically, and without ever looking back.

The simple approach to achieving a more minimalist household

I’ve found the following decision-making techniques useful when thinking about whether to keep something or throw it out: an object that I decide to keep has to be a) functional, and/or b) beautiful. If it doesn’t fulfil a) and/or b), then out it goes! I also find it helpful to picture my next house move and work out what I would want to take with me and what not.

This may sound weird, but I love the feeling of buzz and excitement when thinking about what next to get rid of! With every item I purge, I feel I am making (at least tiny) progress towards a more minimalist household. The One-A-Day-Declutter approach has transformed my life towards something better.

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.

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.

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, emails, 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!

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:

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.

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”.

You can find a German translation of this blog post here.

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

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

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 (which was replaced by SUFT later). 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.

Being a self-employed translator comes with many perks: complete flexibility, suitable working hours,
charging appropriate rates and working with amazing clients

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!

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 email address to family members or friends.

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