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a problem of old age?
Thread poster: Jennifer Barnett

Jennifer Barnett  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oct 11, 2008

I have just had a deep shock which has greatly shaken my confidence. Usually I am eagerly advising others but now I am asking for help.

Recently I sent off a test translation and text revision to an agency. To my surprise, they replied that my work was so poor that they would not be adding me to their books. This is the first time I have had this experience. Upon reading the corrections and comments on the tests I had to agree with them but it was also shocking to see how careless and inconsistent my work was - not like me at all. It was as if I had not checked and I certainly had done so. The texts were challenging and I enjoyed the task - just cannot understand what happened. Since doing these tests I have completed another small project which went well. Did I have 'bad word' days at a bad time? Was I over confident?

I have always suffered from the occasional 'word blindness' and comprehension blind spot but this is within the bounds of normality. My short term memory is certainly getting worse (I am 57 years old). After this experience I am very afraid that I am losing ability or at best becoming a liabilty due to inconsistency just when I am trying to become a full time freelance translator after carrying out occasional projects over many years.

What to do?
My first thought was to ask for another chance but that would just show that my work quality is unreliable so why would they bother to waste more time on me? It would also sound pathetic especially as I have no good reason for such an apparent drop in quality. Honesty can work against you. Perhaps I should have asked my translation buddy to check the texts but this is surely cheating and also creates greater expectations than one could always live up to for agency work, not to mention the extra expense.

In any case I am going to ask my doctor about it. It could be a health problem that is treatable - or not!

Have any other seniors (or juniors) had this experience? If so, how do you work around it?

Or perhaps I am being hysterical, it was just a blip and I should put it behind me and move on?


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
into Native? Oct 11, 2008

Have you done it into your native language?

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Jennifer Barnett  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
into native language Oct 11, 2008

Oh yes. I would not dream of trying to translate from my native language into my second laguage.

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amurati
Local time: 21:50
English to Albanian
+ ...
Well it might be the age problem Oct 11, 2008

it is know that in older ages peoples lose concentration. This might be caused but number of factors but due to a fact that I am not a doctor or affiliated with medicine I can't tell anything.

By the way I do communicate with an Canadian woman and she has roots of Albanians living in northern Greece but they flew form there firstly to Italy and then around 1925 her family moved to Canada. She was assimilated and now I do teach her with Albanian language. She is 54 so she can remember the words that I write to her. So there is not much difference in age.


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:50
French to English
+ ...
Ouch! Oct 11, 2008

Hello Jennifer,

I can well understand why you are a bit shaken.

If you are concerned that something is off (short term memory as you say), then a check-up would probably alleviate your concerns (concerns that can affect your concentration, self-confidence and all the rest). We *all* have off days - fatigue, stress, preoccupation, poor eating habits etc.. - do have an impact on work. Nothing unusual there.

I took a look at your profile and CV and you have tremendous expertise in a very particular area -- but principally as a researcher, consultant and author. Translation seems to have stumbled into your life because of that expertise, and it is not yet a full or even half time endeavor. It is a far different thing to translate someone else's prose than to compose your own, even if you know the topic inside out and sideways. I have a hunch that this, combined with fatigue and health concerns, may have something to do with the comments you received from the agency.

I wouldn't go back to them to ask for another chance, but I would take the original text (without looking at your translation) and work on it again, and again, another day, perhaps asking a full time professional in your language pair for feedback.

Like any profession, translators have to work at their craft constantly, seek additional training, and benefit from constructive criticism.

If you want to make translation a big part of your life, keep plugging away at it. But first, wipe our the health worries thanks to a nice chat with your physician!

HTH,

Patricia


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:50
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
I had a similar experience once Oct 11, 2008

Also in my mid-fifties, I think. One translation from an agency I worked for regularly evoked an indignant phone call about the errors in it, which I had to admit was justified. I corrected it and refused any payment for it. The agency continued to send work and it never happened again. I just put it down to an off-day for no known reason. I hope it will be the same with you.

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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:50
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Constructive criticism Oct 11, 2008

Jennifer,

Such things happened to most of us, regardless of age.
The only thing to do is to turn this experience into constructive criticism, a stimulus to be even more careful when we deliver a job. We as translators are often isolated, we receive very little feedback from our customers, and we tend to lose contact with our weak points. Such negative experiences can be turned into something useful.

As for the problem being connected with age, I don't think so. I know some great translators who are in their 60's and whose work is flawless. On the other hand, it can be related to tiredom, lack of sleep, etc.

All the best and keep us informed!
Laura


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:50
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Don't accept it. Oct 11, 2008

Jennifer, don't accept the idea that you have to deteriorate just because the earth has gone around the sun a certain number of times. Not every older person suffers such things, and it is my firm belief that you can put it out of your thought and know that you are just as intelligent and alert as you ever were. I have proven this for myself, and I am a decade older than you.

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
very wise words from Amy Oct 11, 2008

Amy Duncan wrote:

Jennifer, don't accept the idea that you have to deteriorate just because the earth has gone around the sun a certain number of times. Not every older person suffers such things, and it is my firm belief that you can put it out of your thought and know that you are just as intelligent and alert as you ever were. I have proven this for myself, and I am a decade older than you.


Jennifer:

As someone in your age bracket, I could not agree more with Amy. Let me mention a few things that popped into my head when reading your posting:

1. Menopause: It can make a woman feel "out of whack" for a period of time, but things normally go back to normal; personally, as a post-menopausal woman, I feel far more centered today than I did in the "pre-" times. So, for that reason, or others, a trip to the MD cannot hurt.

2. As an English-language editor, I know that EVERYONE makes mistakes. Most of the time, competent professionals re-read their work and catch their errors, which sets them apart from the less serious (or perhaps, just "less aware") group that fails to take proofing and polishing seriously. But even in the former group, there are times when a given individual has an off-day and makes typos or errors, or writes less-than-felicitous prose.

3. I've had several "red-faced" moments. I tried to keep a "stiff upper lip," struggling to see it as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. As far as I know, I've never lost a client, and I saw these moments as a form of collaboration. If I were to point out an error or a way to make an improvement to someone with whom I was collaborating, the last thing I'd want to have to worry about is denting his or her ego.

Remember what Alexander Pope said: "To err is human; to forgive, divine." So, let this go, forgive yourself, and get your confidence firmly back in place.

Best,
Patricia


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:50
German to English
"Senior moments" Oct 11, 2008

A few years back I was contacted by a fellow Proz member (upon the recommendation of someone else) to provide a translation. I performed the basic translation on my desktop computer then transferred the document to my laptop, as I was spending a day away from the office, but wanted to get in a few hours work. I checked the translation and reworked it extensively. When I returned to my office, I neglected to transfer the corrected translation to the desktop computer, and the sent the unchecked original with the expected hilarious result. The colleague wrote me (with no small justification, as it turned out) a scolding e-mail, indicating that my work had been substandard, and sent me the corrected document. Realizing that an explanation was futile under the circumstances, I put my tail between my legs and offered a reduction in my rate.

My point is that things like this happen. It's just more embarrassing when you're experienced and ... older.


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Perhaps not an off day...more an off moment. Oct 11, 2008

Of course there is always the possibility that you proof-read your work and made corrections but then never hit the save button.

It's happened to me (same age bracket, by the way). I KNOW I made corrections but later when I came back to it, the original errors were still there.

Don't let it shake your confidence. The fact that you know it can happen will make you all the more diligent in the future. A check-up wouldn't do any harm, though.

Hang in there

All the best!


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Melzie
Local time: 21:50
French to English
+ ...
Did you check what was sent back to you against your original? Oct 11, 2008

Yes, we all have bad days with word blindness etc. etc.
And yes, go to your GP and try a course of magnesium.

But, if you haven’t already done it due to the shock/humiliation I know you must be feeling, do check that it really was your text that was corrected.

Once, I was sent back some work that really was unacceptable, the client swore blind that it was mine. As the client is a good one and I generally do all their work, I was all ready to grovel. Luckily, before doing so, I read through the text. I didn’t just scan it, I really read it. Well! the event was set for the 22th of April! After a very long discussion, I managed to get her to admit that yes, maybe an over zealous trainee had thought they could do it without any help from an experienced translator!


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Jennifer Barnett  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you for the encouragemen Oct 11, 2008

Thank you all for the encouraging comments so far. No need to end it all just yet.

For the record, the comments/corrections on the texts were very thorough with mistakes, style questions and good word choices clearly marked. I do not agree with some comments but there were just too many silly little errors and oversights that should not have been there. The first thing I did was to check that it was indeed my work. I also did wonder whether I had not saved the last changes but cannot verify this due to my good old short term memory malfunction. I am least consistent in that aspect.

One lesson now learnt is check, check and then check again - and yet again. And no rush jobs without first checking my bio-rhythms: not that I rushed these tests.

As for the hormone factor, I did have an early and very difficult menopause in which moments of confusion and blankness were very common - nearly ruined my teaching career as I did not know what was going on at first. Later I read somewhere that the language centre of the brain can be affected by menopausal hormone swings but that should be well and truly over by now (something for the younger females amongst us to look foward to).

How I love this web site!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:50
English to French
+ ...
This is probably not about age, but about experience Oct 11, 2008

I believe that the more experience one has, the more confident one becomes with one's skills. This is tricky, because as time passes, we might go overboard with this and we have to watch that we don't become overconfident. I suspect that this is what happened to you, Jennifer - although I might be wrong.

I would think that you simply had one of those days when you felt very condifent with your skills, and you probably overdid it without realizing it. I am much younger than you are, but it happens to me, too. I think that as we gather experience, this is something we have to increasingly keep an eye out for.

You say you are 57. Let's suppose you have started translating at 40. I am sure that if one of us here had started at 20, by the time they turn 35, they would have the same problem. But at 35, one is still quite young. So, I don't think this has to do with age.

Of course, much like the body, the brain also gets rusty over time. But at 57, you would be part of a very small minority if this was your case. I think you are still young, and you still have a lot of translation ahead of you before you can conclude that you are too old for this.

All the best!


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Try a CAT tool Oct 11, 2008

Jennifer Barnett wrote:

... there were just too many silly little errors and oversights that should not have been there.

When I translate a text from a Word file which I imported into Déjà Vu X, I do the final check in the exported Word file, because it usually looks very different in an other format, and I nearly always find some smaller errors and things to improve in the final Word file.

I think this happens because you can become blind for a text when you read it too often in the same format. The CAT tool does not need to be as expensive as DVX, it just needs to present the text in a very different format.

I think the free tools MemoQ or OmegaT would be a good start for this purpose.


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