Off topic: What was your scariest translation project?
Thread poster: Henry Hinds

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 1, 2006

I saw the one on the "most enjoyable", now what was your scariest project?

Mine involved some work I was doing in an economic development project where I was both an interpreter and translator. I can also say it was one of the most enjoyable projects I have worked on, but here's the scary part.

The crew doing the consulting work needed a translation of a thick statistical study, but only for their internal use and within a short time. Quick and dirty at an affordable price was fine with them. So I proposed a sight-read, audio-recorded translation that they could then transcribe and use.

It took me about a week to produce it on a collection of about 25 audio tapes and I needed to deliver. One of the members of the consulting group would be coming through town but arriving late, and said "just leave it at the reception at such-and-such hotel with my name on it and I'll pick it up".

Well, over two weeks went by and one day I was on the phone with this person and asked, "by the way, did you pick up the tapes?"

The answer: "Oh, no, I ended up staying at another hotel that night".

My heart sank. You see, there were no copies of those audio tapes. I got in the car and rushed to the hotel. I asked the clerk on duty about a package and he knew nothing about it. Then I went around the corner of the desk and peeked under the back of the counter and there it was... right where it had been left.

It would have been a whole week's work down the drain, but fortunately it was saved. The following week I delivered it to another member of the group, but this time I did it personally.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:12
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The night I discovered Wordfast... Jul 1, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:
I saw the one on the "most enjoyable", now what was your scariest project?


When I was still fairly new to the freelancing game, I received a translation job from a client just before a long weekend. I didn't even bother to open the file and have a look at it. When I opened the file on Sunday (it was due on Wednesday), I realised that there would be no way that I could complete it in just two days (six days would have been more like it). It was an Excel file with lots and lots of chemical strings. So I panicked... and I decided that if I was ever going to learn translation memory, now would be a good time. I got Wordfast, learnt how to use it in half an hour, and completed the job in 10 hours.

Never again, I said to myself. But to be honest, I still often say "yes" to regular clients without having opened the source text document if I have a pretty good idea what I'd find in it. I'm only human.


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 21:12
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on what kind of "scary." Jul 1, 2006

In the technical sense? The one I had to get done before leaving on a trip, and four hours and 1 hour (respectively) before the deadline my monitor and then my keyboard died. I had a new monitor (still in the box) that I had to install, losing half an hour. But the keyboard stopped me dead. I had another keyboard but it had the wrong kind of connector and I didn't have an adaptor. I finished the paragraph using the mouse to cut and paste one or two letters at a time, then sent the job and called my client. He was kind enough (didn't have a choice) to let me finish a day later, using a friend's computer while I was on the road, and I gave him a 10% discount.

In the sense of feeling inadequate to the job? A documentary film that I had to transcribe and then translate for subtitles. I was away from Puerto Rico, and when I popped the DVD into the machine my heart sank, because it was full of interviews with elderly country people with little formal education. So many colorful expressions that I didn't understand! Thank God for the Puerto Rican diaspora.


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:12
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
my first localization job - in at the deep end Jul 1, 2006

I think it was my first localization job...

I had never before seen (let alone used) a computer, but they needed to get a rough Italian version together quickly, to demo a brand new graphics software at a trade show. 1988, so there weren't many translators experienced in localization at the time, Somehow they found me, I must have been the only Italian around... "Don't worry, it's really easy!"

I was given a cute little Mac and the auto-training diskette to go through and learn how to use a mouse, clicking on fallen letters on the screen and dragging them back into position.

Next, I was showed how to use ResEdit to translate menus and dialog boxes and resize them, working straight in the application file. Talk about trust!

Luckily I had help and advice from the French localization expert (who had started the same way, 6 months earlier) and the Spanish localization expert (she had started - again the same way - 3 months earlier). And wonderful contacts in Italy who sent me a carton full of books and magazines on graphic arts.

That graphics software application is still around, by the way - I think currently at version 11 or something like that... and still using the core terminology I came up with back then!

[I'm now a firm believer of working only in one's own field, but then... I wouldn't be here if I had not started that way...]

Roberta


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Boris Popov
Local time: 04:12
English to Russian
+ ...
Not sure if this counts as a "project", but... Jul 1, 2006

I used to mingle with some interesting and rather extraordinary people when I studied at the university. One day I was asked if I could translate a grimoire (book of magic) from Russian to English.

I was allowed to leaf through that manuscript in the presence of its owner. It was a tattered old book written by hand in Old Russian, with some extremely scary drawings.

Of course, I declined the offer as politely as I could - on the pretext that I completely lacked the knowledge of the subject field.

I didn't sleep well the night after that eerie meeting. Now I'm almost ten years older - but sometimes I still see those drawings in my mind.

Some things are better left untranslated.


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Branka Stankovic McCarthy  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 03:12
English to Serbian
+ ...
not really translation Jul 1, 2006

It was an interpreting project last April, and I was accompanying a client on a tour of a crumbling smelter. There I was, hard hat on, the full works, minding my every step, whilst trying to keep up and hear what they were talking about without falling into abyss. Scary!!!

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sandrita  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
Interpreting and then the translation. Jul 2, 2006

A certain murder-in-the-first-degree trial. I had to sit much too close for comfort to the defendant. Every time he wanted to confer with his attorney, we had to sort of huddle. It was his eyes that were frightening... as in, there was nothing in his gaze. Like a black hole. Yikes!!!

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:12
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Scary survey Jul 2, 2006

My scariest job was a really, really long survey about artificial sweeteners. I was about a day into it when my computer broke down. Thank God there was an internet cafe near my apartment, so I did the rest of it there. It actually turned out to be fun, because some of the answers were hysterically funny. I used the money I made from the job to buy a new laptop computer....that'll give you an idea of how big the job was!

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:42
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
When a tigress charged our jeep Jul 2, 2006

I will take the liberty to interpret the topic in my way. I have been scared on a translation project, though not by the translation job itself.

This was while we were touring Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India, for which we were doing an interpretation project. There was a night room exhibit to be done which depicted the jungle at night to visitors. This was an important exhibit because visitors are not allowed into the jungle at night. The exhibit aimed to compensate visitors for this by showing them a glimpse of what goes on in the jungle at night.

To write the script for this exhibit we needed to go into the jungle and get a first hand experience of the jungle at night. There were four of us – the driver (a forest department employee) who was also our guide, a researcher, myself (who was the writer-translator – this was a bilingual project in Hindi and English, for Bandhavgarh receives a lot of foreign tourists) and a forest guard. We were on a Maruti Gypsy which can accommodate only two persons in the driver's cabin (the driver plus one person). The researcher went into the cabin, while I and the guard sat behind in the open back of the jeep.

The experience of the jungle was thrilling; we saw evidences of sloth bears and hyenas and the ubiquitous chital and even a fleeting glimpse of a leopard. But our eyes were skinned for the lord of the jungle, the tiger. Soon our driver picked up the spoors of a tiger on the muddy forest track. It was a tigress. We followed it for a while when it suddenly disappeared into the bush on the side of the track. The tigress, which was walking on the track, had probably become aware of our presence and had side stepped into the bushes to let us pass.

As it was getting late we decided to turn back at this point. To do this we had to take a U turn and this meant moving the jeep a little into the undergrowth as the track was narrow. It was when the jeep entered the undergrowth that the tigress that was crouching there decided to charge out at the jeep and when she did charge, the jeep had already moved ahead and the flank of the jeep was what was right before her where the guard and I were sitting. The only weapon the guard had was a four foot bamboo lathi (baton).

I could see the lithe, striped form of the lady of the jungle galloping along a diagonal trajectory towards our jeep, tail raised high in the air and blood-curdling roars issuing from her throat. I was never scared so much in my life. She could easily have bounded into the jeep and made short work of us for the open back of the jeep was not more than three feet above the ground. But she didn't press forth with her attack and as soon as she reached the jeep she just careered around and bounded away into the jungle.

Incidentally that was my first glimpse of a tiger in the wild and that moment will be forever be etched in my memory. Sadly the tiger is on the way out and future generations may not even be able to see the tiger in the wild any more.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:12
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Land mines Jul 2, 2006

I once had to translate an article about how to treat injuries caused by land mines. It wasn’t pleasant reading about the horrible wounds they can inflict, and the pain and suffering of the victims. It was also scary in the sense that I was reluctant to take it on because I felt I didn’t know enough about medical matters. In fact, I refused to do it, but about a month later, the client came back and said they couldn’t find anyone else, and if I did it, they would put me in touch with the doctors at the hospital which had commissioned the translation so that I could discuss any queries with them. So I went ahead with it, and it turned out to be a very useful learning process for me. I felt in the end that the doctors and I between us had made a reasonable job of it.

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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:12
English to German
+ ...
Postmortem Exminations Jul 2, 2006

... of two young children who had died in a car accident. Having a child (and soon a second) on my own, this was definitely the hardest thing for me. Especially if you have detailed knowledge of what the doctors have actually put to paper.
I think I needed two days to get back to normality.

Sonja


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:12
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
An operating room Jul 2, 2006

(although a helicopter assignment and a stint in Bosnia come close. I have acrophobia when all the reference I see is glass).

I was accompanying a German engineer who was going to speak in English about calibrating lasers for treating varicose veins. He gave the demonstration in an operating room. OK, so I interpreted that.

Eager to test the device, the owners of the clinic produced a volunteer patient and asked him to use it. He was, of course, horrified. An engineer does not touch patients, he said (and thank God - I was translating this exchange all the time), so the doctor gave up trying to convince him and asked the patient to lie down. At that point, the engineer asked, what kind of anesthesia had she been given?

"None".

He told them it had to be local anesthesia for topical application.

So the doctor sent someone to buy local anesthesia from a chemist's. (Yes, at that point I also asked myself what kind of clinic that was).

The engineer said he couldn't stay, since he had to catch his plane.

The doctor said he had to, to check how the machine functioned.

The engineer explained that it would take the anesthesia two hours to work and he had to be at the airport by then.

So the doctor decided to use the laser without anesthesia. The engineer advised against it, but he had to go and try.

The patient's cries resolved the situation. Four pulses had to be applied, and the doctor didn't get a second chance.

By then I was sweating. And to think the nurse had asked me to think about getting a mole removed


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Raffaella Cornacchini  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:12
English to Italian
+ ...
Sausages... Jul 3, 2006

I worked for the Italian National Institute of Health at that time and I had to translate the proceedings of a meeting on wuerstel, sausages, salamis and the like.
The detailed discovery that wuerstel were made with pork eyes, nipples and ears left me nauseous for several days and almost turned me into a vegetarian...
Runner-up was my first job, though. I had to organize a pilgrimage for 4,000 people coming to Rome from Austria. A man died and I had to organize masses for him as well as the shipment of the corpse.
raffaella


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englishhindi
Local time: 06:42
English to Hindi
oh! you have given me an excellent idea Jul 9, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

I will take the liberty to interpret the topic in my way. I have been scared on a translation project, though not by the translation job itself.

This was while we were touring Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India, for which we were doing an interpretation project. There was a night room exhibit to be done which depicted the jungle at night to visitors. This was an important exhibit because visitors are not allowed into the jungle at night. The exhibit aimed to compensate visitors for this by showing them a glimpse of what goes on in the jungle at night.

To write the script for this exhibit we needed to go into the jungle and get a first hand experience of the jungle at night. There were four of us – the driver (a forest department employee) who was also our guide, a researcher, myself (who was the writer-translator – this was a bilingual project in Hindi and English, for Bandhavgarh receives a lot of foreign tourists) and a forest guard. We were on a Maruti Gypsy which can accommodate only two persons in the driver's cabin (the driver plus one person). The researcher went into the cabin, while I and the guard sat behind in the open back of the jeep.

The experience of the jungle was thrilling; we saw evidences of sloth bears and hyenas and the ubiquitous chital and even a fleeting glimpse of a leopard. But our eyes were skinned for the lord of the jungle, the tiger. Soon our driver picked up the spoors of a tiger on the muddy forest track. It was a tigress. We followed it for a while when it suddenly disappeared into the bush on the side of the track. The tigress, which was walking on the track, had probably become aware of our presence and had side stepped into the bushes to let us pass.

As it was getting late we decided to turn back at this point. To do this we had to take a U turn and this meant moving the jeep a little into the undergrowth as the track was narrow. It was when the jeep entered the undergrowth that the tigress that was crouching there decided to charge out at the jeep and when she did charge, the jeep had already moved ahead and the flank of the jeep was what was right before her where the guard and I were sitting. The only weapon the guard had was a four foot bamboo lathi (baton).

I could see the lithe, striped form of the lady of the jungle galloping along a diagonal trajectory towards our jeep, tail raised high in the air and blood-curdling roars issuing from her throat. I was never scared so much in my life. She could easily have bounded into the jeep and made short work of us for the open back of the jeep was not more than three feet above the ground. But she didn't press forth with her attack and as soon as she reached the jeep she just careered around and bounded away into the jungle.

Incidentally that was my first glimpse of a tiger in the wild and that moment will be forever be etched in my memory. Sadly the tiger is on the way out and future generations may not even be able to see the tiger in the wild any more.



As I am a vet, I often encounter such stuations with wild and also sometimes with furious pet animals. it will be great to record mine and my teams feelings on such situations. Although I will not be able to do it for whole of the day but I will make it a target to do one such recording per week. Thanks, A new project for me to work. I never thought of this adventurous looking aspect.


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