Translation Blog

Spare a thought for a colleague

In the unlikely event that anyone follows my few-and-far-between words of wisdom but doesn’t subscribe to the Jenner twins’ far more prolific and useful blog, please spare a thought (and some cash) for a fellow translator.

Why No Peanuts! is not for me

OK, sooner or later it had to happen. I’m going to talk about the translation industry. Specifically, about No Peanuts!, a movement whose aim is to support translators in demanding and receiving a “living wage” for their work. There’s been a lot of talk about No Peanuts (sorry, it’s too irritating to include that exclamation mark every time) in both public and private forums since its launch about 18 months ago, and I’m not sure I have anything original to add. (So why am I writing, you ask? Good question… let’s see if I can crystallise something useful out of my random thoughts.) Read more »

It’s all about me

A few things you should know about me.

1) I love puzzles. Logic puzzles, mathematical puzzles, word puzzles – the harder the better. And the more original the better. Don’t talk to me about Sudoku – it’s old hat. I like shiny new conundrums to get my teeth into.
2) I have a will of steel. If I set my mind to it, it will be done.
3) I like deadlines. They give shape to my day. They give structure to my life. Without a deadline, I’ll happily sleep all morning and read all afternoon. Give me a deadline, and I’m up with the sun (don’t take this too literally), working away like an eager beaver, whipping those words into shape and ready for delivery to your inbox right when you want them.
4) I’m meticulous. Some (in fact most) would say pedantic. I split hairs and pick nits. If it’s not 100% accurate, it’s not good enough.
5) I love writing. Always have done. My first ambition was to be a writer, but I soon discovered I had a problem with ideas. And plots. And dialogue. In short, I liked writing, but had no idea what to write. In my past life as an industrial chemist, my favourite moments were not those spent in front of a laboratory bench hunched over bubbling test tubes, but the ones I spent writing up my results. I took exquisite care over them: the results themselves may not have been up to much, but my, those reports were mighty fine! Shame there’s no Nobel Prize for literature in the field of chemistry: I’d have been a shoo-in.

So what does this all add up to? Loves puzzles, will of steel, likes deadlines, meticulous, loves writing … = translator who’ll go to any lengths to understand that text, research that term and find its exact translation, and craft the whole into a coherent, well-structured text that’s an accurate reflection – or perhaps even improvement – of the original: and all within the agreed time frame.

How I got here

I left school aged 16, sick of education, but having quite enjoyed playing around with copper sulphate crystals in my chemistry lessons. [Yes, I know IUPAC says it’s sulfate, and I will use sulfate if you so insist, but that ph is so much more elegant, don’t you think?]

After a summer of impoverished freedom, I started a YTS as a laboratory trainee at Metal Box (British readers over a certain age will know what I mean: for the benefit of any others, it was a government scheme which legalised the exploitation of school leavers/a well-meaning attempt to combat the growing numbers of unskilled youths, depending on your political leanings). I soon discovered that the world didn’t owe me a living, or indeed any special consideration, but my continued resistance to education resulted in my parting ways with the company at the end of my 12-month stint.

Read more »

How did I become a translator?

The accidental translator

a) I was born into a bilingual family: having absorbed two languages from the cradle, translating seemed like a natural career.

b) I had a crush on my Italian teacher at school, which gradually developed into a passion for the language and a desire to work with it.

c) I studied something else altogether, went off and had a career in that, met an Italian, fell in love, moved to Italy, learned the language and the rest is history.

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