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Off topic: Are translators masochists by nature?
Thread poster: John Cutler

John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 10, 2007

I posted this in the "Off-topic" section because I didn't want anyone to get offended by the question. It's obviously meant to be taken as tongue in cheek, but anyway...
What is it that makes us so willing to participate in a profession that doesn't always pay what it could or should, requires long hours of dedication, odd schedules, long nights; clients who don't know how to do the job themselves but question your decisions on the job; getting paid late many times; hassling with clients just to get paid; lack of time with family; health problems and a long list of etceteras.
Do we love our job that much? Are we paying for our sins of another life?


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:17
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
All of the above Mar 10, 2007

John Cutler wrote:

I posted this in the "Off-topic" section because I didn't want anyone to get offended by the question. It's obviously meant to be taken as tongue in cheek, but anyway...
What is it that makes us so willing to participate in a profession that doesn't always pay what it could or should, requires long hours of dedication, odd schedules, long nights; clients who don't know how to do the job themselves but question your decisions on the job; getting paid late many times; hassling with clients just to get paid; lack of time with family; health problems and a long list of etceteras.
Do we love our job that much? Are we paying for our sins of another life?


Hullo John,
There must be an element of masochism - or in my case workaholism, I suppose.
For me, being a freelancer is vastly better than being an employee at the mercy of the whims of a single boss - now that takes real masochism!
Kind regards,
Jenny


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xxxPaul Roige
Spain
Local time: 02:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
A mistery Mar 10, 2007

Been increasingly wondering about this for 7 years, John. Beats me.
Good luck
Paul



[Modifié le 2007-03-11 08:22]


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Mihaela BUFNILA  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 03:17
English to Romanian
+ ...
Oh, the reward Mar 10, 2007

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Sometimes it is the only reward but it is worthy.
Well John, I think we do. I mean we do love it.
There are many strains, disadvantages and anonymous efforts that only a great result can reward. There is nothing like achievement even then when it is so far from success. Polishing your work, giving a meaning to just a bag of nothing, pushing your own limits towards improvement, there is nothing like that.
Am I talking about a translator’s work here? This is about loving your work, whatever you do: digging a trench or building a ship or something.
When you choose what to be you also choose what not to be. I am a translator because I didn’t want to be anything else.
Kind regards to you all,
Mihaela


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VIVA VOCE Ltd.  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 02:17
English to Croatian
+ ...
a good question! Mar 10, 2007

Well, like in any job, there are difficulties and human relations that are not always to our advantage. If we could only translate and let someone else do the rest of the job - I mean, finances, organisation etc...
There's no guarantee here and competition is very tough.
The way to permanent loyal clients is a thorny one.
Still, how much choice do you have?

1) Quit and start something completely different
2) Quit translating as primary source of income and just do it for fun and personal pleasure (with payment, of course)
3) Keep up our work occasionally letting ourselves ask questions like this one: Is it really worth it?

I wouldn't change my translation job for anything. For me, combination of teaching and translation is an ideal one.
What bothers me most is bad competition and of course, bad payers...

I don't know whether I'm masochist or not. I guess not more than any other highly committed professional...

[Edited at 2007-03-10 11:55]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:17
English to German
+ ...
Think outside the box, uhm, beyond the deadline.. Mar 10, 2007

You think about what is happening to you while translating?
Wrong. Think what your translation is going to make happen. Worldwide.

This is an attitude I acquired when I still was an art director, creating tons of packaging design for cosmetics. Tiny example: Once, in a department store in the hair care aisle I was watching a woman choosing among various bottles of shampoo. She took a bottle close to the one I had designed, this ignorant cow, this country egg, what a stupid bitch getting stuff for her ugly spaghetti hair... but then!, Yes! YESSS!! she put the shampoo bottle back (so smart!), and she picked: MY BOTTLE!!! My shampoo bottle!!! This wonderful woman! This sophisticated lady! What a great and exquisite taste she had! So smart! So refined! So beautiful! I love her!

Hehe.. "Kodak" moments like this helped me make my peace with working overtime at insane hours and I fell in love with my profession all over again.

The very same thing is happening with translations. On purpose I am not mentioning low rates - in the year 2007 you have sufficient access to everything to make the best out of yourself.

I think that a lot of translators are underestimating the IMPACT of their work and therefore can't get the satisfaction out of their profession.

Yes, the schedules might be odd. But, as a freelancer, aren't you working for international clients in bizarre timezones? Still, the choice is up to you when answer the phone or when to reply to an email.


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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 21:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
Just the sheer joy of it Mar 10, 2007

All I can think of is a poem that perfectly describes this sort of incurable addiction to "wordicrafts".

I'm quoting it below and apologise to the non-Spanish-speaking tribe:

La Tribu de los Traductores

Brindemos por la tribu de los traductores,
los que conjuran el silencio con la palabra exacta
y la hacen danzar con la voz del autor:
Extraña tribu, ésta,
de los traductores:
celebran el encuentro de las palabras
y se contentan
cuando sus propias presencias
se vuelven invisibles.
(Dicen que los buenos tienen el don de desaparecer
de los textos sin dejar huellas.)
Hacen hogueras que duran varias noches
y junto a ellas se consuman,
doblados
sobre textos extraños
y papeles con sellos de colores
y enormes águilas.
No viven en bandadas,
aunque se comunican entre sí
con señales,
y se ayudan en la caza de palabras
en la intemperie de sus territorios.
No guardan los Domingos
y otras fiestas,
aunque se postran ante
la Sabiduría
y el preciso sentido
de los textos.
Cuando caen las sombras,
si no se encuentran limando,
como piedras preciosas,
las palabras,
sueña la tribu
que hombres y mujeres,
pueblos y comarcas,
se comunican;
y ese sueño
alegra sus noches y sus días,
y aligera su alma.

Trad. María Cristina Plencovich (Argentina)


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:17
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Being your own boss Mar 10, 2007

Work when you like, choose how much work you want to take, drop bad customers...
I cannot follow your thought, after 30 years of 8 to 4 employment I enjoy (mostly) what I do now.
My wife envies me every morning when she waits for her bus to work.
Cheers
Heinrich


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:17
French to English
Are you having a bad few days? Mar 10, 2007

First the poll about what people use to stay awake, now this

I'm not in that category of people who "love" translation.

I AM in the category of people who gradually came to hate being an employee - commuting, having to tolerate individuals I didn't particularly like, office politics, lack of control.
I imagine freelancers in any profession have to deal with the same stuff you listed, to a lesser or greater degree. I can well imagine that, for example, freelance graphic designers would make very similar complaints. I don't for a moment imagine we are unique.

The point is that you only have the freedom to only have to deal with it once.

If, for example, you find yourself up til 5 a.m. working, then you either don't take that kind of project again (if you're up late for a rush job), or you organise your life better (if you're up late to meet a deadline because you misjudged the workload). It's up to you. No-one's holding a gun to your head


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Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My situation Mar 10, 2007

I realize I need to organize my life better.

I' m not going to the gym for example....

A.


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 20:17
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What a marvelous poem! Mar 10, 2007

MÓNICA ALGAZI wrote:

All I can think of is a poem that perfectly describes this sort of incurable addiction to "wordicrafts".

I'm quoting it below and apologise to the non-Spanish-speaking tribe:

La Tribu de los Traductores

....................


Trad. María Cristina Plencovich (Argentina)


I love it! Thank you. Does the "Trad." at the bottom mean that María Cristina translated it? If so, from what language, and where can I find the original? Or is "Trad." meant to be her professional title (Translator) and is she then the author?

Have you considered posting this in the Spanish forum so that more people can enjoy it?

********

Re John's question: Like most people, we translators take great pleasure in talking/writing about how much we suffer! I guess that does make us incipient masochists.

I agree with all you say, except the part about the sins in a previous life. In my case, if I believed in the concept, I would think I had been very, very good in a previous life. I still can't get over the way I accidentally backed into a new profession (at the age of 48!), discovered I'm actually good at it, and am now getting paid well for doing something that I find endlessly fascinating.

Jane


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:17
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Live it, work it Mar 10, 2007

It occurs to me that probably a lot of us spend our lives translating anyway, whether at home ( in multilingual homes), other jobs, etc. Working at this is just an extension of our natures. Don't you all find yourselves translating things for yourselves ( i.e under your breath, reading the horrifically translated instructions on packages) in the strangest situations?

Maybe the hours are insane ( like tonight I will go to sleep around 3 am probably- deadline tomorrow), but as a freelancer with two very small children, I always have the time to take them to school, feed them and not disappear every morning early and not see them all day.


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Maria Rosich Andreu  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:17
Member (2003)
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
being my own boss Mar 10, 2007

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

Work when you like, choose how much work you want to take, drop bad customers...
I cannot follow your thought, after 30 years of 8 to 4 employment I enjoy (mostly) what I do now.
My wife envies me every morning when she waits for her bus to work.


I can totally relate. I am so happy being a freelancer. And my boyfriend, after two years of having a job at University, has finally succumbed to the evidence, has gone freelance and now also enjoys working at night on Sundays (hehe).


[Edited at 2007-03-11 00:22]


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 01:17
well... Mar 10, 2007

I think translation is one of those jobs where it is not just about ability, your own personality is a key factor too.

Not everybody has the discipline to be at home all day with the computer, with perhaps a random pet or child for company

I can relate to Nicole's story - I recently translated a TV ad into Gaelic and I still get excited when I see it played. It was about farm safety, not as glamourous as shampoo.

Orla


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 02:17
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
"Are we paying for our sins of another life?" Mar 10, 2007

Just a knee-jerk reaction to the title of the thread:"Are translators masochists by nature?"

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you

...

... and let's stop where for Eurythmics the abuse starts (g).


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