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Poll: Writers get writer's block; do you ever get "translator's block"?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 21:12
SITE STAFF
Jan 17, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Writers get writer's block; do you ever get "translator's block"?".

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A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:12
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 17, 2008

Usually over a specific term or sentence. I just highlight it for future contemplation and move on to the next bit.

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David Singer
Local time: 05:12
Swedish to English
Same for me Jan 17, 2008

Aside from tiredness of course and too many days in a row without a break. For single word blocks, I treat the problem like a difficult cryptic crossword, I allow the problem to incubate and somehow the problem becomes easier to solve. That's one of the fun parts of translating I think.

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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:12
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Yesssss Jan 17, 2008

When it comes, I usually take a small break and try to occupy my mind with something completely different, possibly away from the computer. It usually helps. Sometimes taking an hour of nap makes a miracle! But for me a difficult term is not a "translator's block" - real block is when even a simple sentence doesn't come up properly or when I check the term in a dico and forget what was it before I type it. It does happen...

Magda


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
translation is a good cure for writer's block (not exactly the question, I know) Jan 17, 2008

Yes, of course I agree with those above, that there are terms and phrases that one blocks on (I have a list of these for HU-EN translators; I think the same words give everyone trouble, and they will always remain difficult, so no need to blame yourself or your block) - but from a larger perspective, the beauty of translating is that it is more or less clear what you have to do next. If you translate material that is in your field of interest or publication, you may find that your writer's block gets washed away somewhat, or at least alleviated.

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David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
It certainly isn't the same as writer's block Jan 17, 2008

I've experienced writer's block, and I remember the utter inability to fill half a page with writing. In my view, it simlpy means you aren't ready to write, and when you are, it will flow. On the other hand, I've been translating for almost two decades, and I don't remember a day when I could not translate (execpt when I was sick or when my daughters distracted me), the main obstacle being unfamiliar terminology or a field I did not dominate. Of course there are words I look up over and over, terms I forget, days when it seems like I have to rely more on term lists, but as far as translating goes, no, I've never felt a block.

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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Another kind of block - procrastination Jan 17, 2008

I'm slap bang in the middle of another kind of block at the moment, which is the inability to persuade myself to get on with a translation that I am finding tedious in the extreme, but which is not yet particularly urgent. I've programmed my work so as not to have too much on my plate for a couple of weeks after an exhausting previous couple of months, hence the fact that I can even consider allowing myself to be a lazy little so-and-so. If I were at home I'd be doing the ironing/darning/any other unappetizing domestic task, and here in the office my correspondence is unusually up-to-date and I've even got round to fixing the blinking (literally) fluorescent light in the corridor. But get on with what I'm supposed to be doing? - I fear only the drawing closer of the deadline will force me into action. But since I have now washed my dirty linen in public, I promise you all I shall try to get on with it!

Cheers, Noni


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
While I was posting... Jan 17, 2008

...another small job came in, so I can assuage my conscience while still avoiding getting on with the boring one. Hee hee. Oh so unprofessional...

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree Jan 17, 2008

Magda Dziadosz wrote:

- real block is when even a simple sentence doesn't come up properly or when I check the term in a dico and forget what was it before I type it.


... and if you interpret, doesn't it make you feel "SHIT!" ? (I mean, you could do that in the snap of a finger and you begin to have nightmares about your capability).

A real block is -- how I dread it -- when the "parrot" (like the booth "perroquet") stops working. (Talk about the animal in you...)


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:12
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Next morning Jan 17, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

Usually over a specific term or sentence. I just highlight it for future contemplation and move on to the next bit.


Happens to me too. Usually I come up with a great solution first thing when I wake up the next morning.


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Hendarto Setiadi  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 12:12
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Perspiration vs inspiration Jan 17, 2008

David Russi wrote:

I've experienced writer's block, and I remember the utter inability to fill half a page with writing. In my view, it simlpy means you aren't ready to write, and when you are, it will flow.


I do a lot of literary translation and at times I just cannot get the sentences to flow naturally in my target language. I used to allow myself to stop working, citing translator's block, but nowadays I just continue and then revise as necessary. This is much better (or at least, more productive) than waiting for "inspiration".


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:12
German to English
+ ...
Yep, sometimes Jan 17, 2008

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

Usually over a specific term or sentence. I just highlight it for future contemplation and move on to the next bit.


Agree.

That's when I realise that if I waste the few seconds looking it up in a dictionary it will spring to mind just as I am opening the dictionary. So if I have a temporary problem with e.g. the Klingon expression ta’ tlhIngan Hol!, then I type xxx. Afterwards, running through any 'xxx' in the document is a breeze.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:12
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Silly things I can't remember... Jan 18, 2008

There are silly things I can't remember, no matter how many times I look them up.

The funniest was horseradish ! Not the word you normally use most often, but my son had a passion for it, or horseradish salad, and I could never find it in the Danish supermarkets! No problem normally, if you can remember what you are looking for. Even as I write this, I am desperately trying to remember what it is called in Danish. It is NOT the literal translation, which he used to tease me with (hest = horse- + radise = radish). When I know the Danish, the English disappears, unless I have it in writing. It's uncanny!

Annoyingly enough, when translating recipes and menus, I know dozens of herbs and spices and vegetables in several languages - often including Marathi or Hindi from my childhood, refreshed by the labels on the jars or packs... And I have no problem in finding the right language for the occasion. My Swedish relations collect and sometims grow South American chilli seeds and African recipes... and that is fun!

I had to look horseradish up yet again - peberrod! (= pepper root quite literally.)

Freud would no doubt have a field day with a few of my blocks, but most of them are legal or technical terms and just irritating. Checking in the dictionary (where I have notes from the last 10 times... ) or Marie-Hélène's method (+ coffee) soon solve that problem.



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neilmac
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I often struggle to remember Jan 18, 2008

... things that I've translated before - they're on the tip of my tongue but don't come out when I need them.
Technical texts are not usually a problem - my worst times are with enigmatic, important sounding (usually advertising) blurbs, which may often sound good in one language but are quite hard to render in the other. I've wasted hours trying to get the right 6 word soundbite on occasion.
Oh and BTW Noni, I can do tedious stuff no problem, so if you're really stuck you can outsource me the boring job, I'm not too busy this weekend (yet)!


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:12
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thank you Neil for the offer of a lifeline... Jan 18, 2008

...but I've just finished it this minute. Rats! Ah well, a quieter weekend for the both of us!

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