Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Human translation simply explained

Why do we need translators? (I mean those of the human type, not computer programmes, by the way.)

And why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?

What exactly is it that keeps human translators so busy? This is perhaps a futile discussion as so many people wouldn’t get it anyway. Perhaps because they’re too simple-minded, too lacking in the understanding of the workings of language, or simply too young, to understand.

It is typically sophisticated people, with a certain level of education, who are very surprised when I tell them: yes, there are people out there who do believe translation nowadays is (or should be) carried out by Google Translate or similar tools.

Why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?

No doubt translation is a matter of huge complexity, and explaining to others what translation typically involves is complex, too. Why is the demand for human translation huge? Simple answers, in my opinion, are best. For example:

I translate texts that are too difficult for Google Translate.

Try translating a complex technical text using Google Translate, and you’ll see it won’t work.

Machine translations often look correct at first sight, but when you look more closely, they aren’t.

The texts which I’m given to translate are confidential and mustn’t be fed into Google.

Most translations need a human touch, and my job is to put this human touch to translations.

A computer isn’t particularly good at producing natural translations. In the end, even very technical translations need to sound natural.

Translation is a hugely complex matter, yet sometimes we should avoid complex words to explain translation to others. Explaining translation simply often is best!

(A German translation of this blog article is available here.)

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Reducing office time by prioritising and batching

We don’t have enough time. We are generally too busy. Right?

Leo Babauta, one of my favourite writers on the topics of minimalism and mindfulness, has written a blog post with suggestions on how to spend time more intentionally. He claims that when we say we don’t have enough time for a particular activity, we are actually saying: “I DON’T WANT TO DO IT”. You’ll find the whole article here.

Leo Babauta recommends, inter alia, taking ownership of our time by prioritising categories of tasks and batching them. This has reminded me of how, in the summer of 2012, I took books away with me on holiday, in the hope that they would help me figure out ways of reducing my office working hours.

We can take ownership of our time: for example, by batching tasks

At the time, I’d been completely exhausted and overworked, feeling I wouldn’t be able to carry on like this. The books which had been recommended to me pre-holiday included: “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers (which I loved and have blogged about here), “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss (which I wasn’t such a great fan of), and a few others.

I managed to extract a few helpful ideas from these books, which I put into practice back home in the office. One of them involved prioritising and batching any related tasks. This is what I learnt: working on related tasks in batches and blocking out time for them is way more efficient than switching back and forth between individual tasks!

As it turns out, prioritising and batching works across the board. See, for example, the articles “The Definitive Guide to ‘Batching’ Your Work” or “How to Batch Your Tasks for Maximum Productivity”. In fact, many posts on the blog you’re just reading were batch-produced: I have a habit of writing blog posts in a batch – but then publish them weeks or months later.

It’s a myth that we generally don’t have enough time. We WILL find the time for an activity if it IS important to us. And we can take ownership of our time: for example, by batching tasks.