Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Better and happier at work by slowing down

In the past few years I’ve turned into a keen runner and have even come to enjoy fast running! As of late, though, I’ve become a bit fed up with trying to run as fast as I can. Although I won’t deny that achieving a new Personal Best does give me an immense sense of satisfaction, I’ve switched to a slower pace.

The benefits of slower running are manifold: I do not just eliminate the risk of potentially collapsing with exhaustion at the end, but also consciously enjoy the activity in itself much more. I notice more of the little things in nature around me. And it has the pleasurable effect that running thereby is now (almost!) relaxing.

Pomphrey Hill parkrun, Mangotsfield, Bristol (image courtesy of Heli-air Imaging)

I’ve noticed a striking parallel between running and my job in translation. Working too fast involves running the risk of failing to pick up nuances in meaning, of missing minor details in the text, or of failing to see errors in the vicinity of other errors that I did spot. So reducing the speed (within reason) in whatever we do in our jobs has clear benefits, too.

In translation projects we sometimes whizz through texts, either because of time constraints, or because we’re revising somebody else’s excellent translation that doesn’t require many changes, or because we’ve worked through one of our own texts often enough already. Don’t we sometimes simply want to get the job over and done with to have it out of the way?

When preparing the first translation draft, I tend to work at a fairly high speed. Needless to say, raw translation as I’m rephrasing the text in German calls for creativity, too; however, the process is in a way also “mechanical”. This is because for my first draft I make abundant use of internet resources, translation memory segments from previous projects already stored in my CAT tool, as well as some machine translation.

However, I work more slowly on subsequent drafts, especially the final version of the text! I usually prepare the final version in a distraction-free setting, when I’m completely alone at home. As a general rule, I’m up for this in the morning while I’m still feeling fresh in my mind. I then also notice and appreciate the little things in it.

Is it perhaps the consequence of what happens when we do something habitually day in, day out? I’m under the impression that as translators over time we tend to lose the appreciation of the beauty of language a bit. Isn’t beauty to be found in the words of even the most technical or driest of texts? They’re words, after all: the small, beautiful components of language that can be turned into something amazing when put together in a translation.

Reducing my running pace has made me realise that the benefits of slowing down at work are manifold, too. They include an even greater eye for detail, a reduced likelihood of overlooking errors and more appreciation of the words and the text. Slowing down has made me better and happier at work.

You can read a German translation of this post on my German blog here.