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Translators, this unknwon creature: What do we have in common?
Thread poster: Roberta Anderson

Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Apr 25, 2002

Following on from the article posted by Werner (thank you!) in the Getting Established forum section, and the Affinities site spotted by Martin in the Italian section:

I\'ve always been interested/intrigued by what traits translators have in common. I\'m not just talking about skills, but also and especially personal and character traits, and background.

Recognising what most of us have in common, apart from our work, can lead to interesting ramifications...

Anybody interested in sharing their own characteristics, or ideas on this?



Local time: 15:35
French to Dutch
+ ...
I think most of us have a lot in common Apr 25, 2002

Such as:

1. Freedom loving individuals who like to think that the world is their village

2. Intellectually minded, but not to such an extent that we forget about the economic reality (earning money)

3. Openness of mind and thought. How else can one make a good translation from a text that originated in a sometimes totally different culture?

4. Independent creatures - Working for a boss - at least full time - would render most of us highly depressed in no time... icon_wink.gif
5. Computer loving (and hating) individuals, most of us will have a more intense (or far worse) relation with their computers as with their partners and/or children icon_smile.gif

Please add your caracteristiques to the list!

Kind regards,



Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
cntd Apr 25, 2002

Intellectually curious, inquistive minds--eager to get to the bottom of things.

Responsible (hopefully) for the words used. Strangely, not always can you take them to their promises, though...

Terribly patient, not only because of computers.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-25 09:48 ]


Local time: 09:35
English to German
+ ...
We tend to believe that languages are important. Apr 25, 2002

However, this is often not shared by others who don\'t work in languages, only with languages. So they don\'t speak any languages or even if they do, they don\'t take it as seriously as we do to say or write something properly just for the sake of correctness. So there\'s a conflict between us who believe in the best possible communication and those who don\'t care, as long as the job gets done somehow.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-25 09:51 ]


Dave Greatrix  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:35
Dutch to English
+ ...
Spot on! Apr 25, 2002


On 2002-04-25 09:15, Anneken wrote:

Such as:

1. Freedom loving individuals who like to think that the world is their village.

Many of my mates are jealous of my lifestyle.

I am always an early riser, but if I want I can get up when I like. Go to bed when I like. Come in at what time I like after a night out. I don\'t have to rush to catch buses, trains, or to beat traffic. I don\'t get embroiled in office gossip, or arguments, because there is nobody to argue with. I stop when I like, start when I like, plus it pays well.

Above all, in two weeks I\'m leaving the UK to live in Spain, and it will not effect my work in the slightest. What a job!

However, I do believe everyone is the master of their own destiny. My advice would be, do not make promises that you are not comfortable with, it will only cause stress, resulting in poor work. If you think a job will take three days, tell the client 4 days rather than 2 days. Remember that it is not our fault if an agency are sweating to meet a deadline that they have agreed with a client without having first consulted their freelancers. Believe me if you set yourself targets that are easily achieved, translating can be as near to a perfect job as you can get.

Finally, don\'t take yourself too seriously. For some reason a great many translators are thoroughly boring, individuals, totally devoid of any sense of humour and with a large dose of self-importance. Why? We are not really that special, I would simply say we are fortunate.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-25 10:27 ]


Palko Agi  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
English to Hungarian
+ ...
maximalist Apr 25, 2002

I fully agree with László. Actually, I believe that every good translator must be a maximalist. That results, however, in constant frustration, since we have to make compromises all the time...

This is what makes our profession so difficult. And so beautiful.


Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 15:35
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
A mind like a rubbish dump!!! Apr 25, 2002

The best translators seem to remember everything that they come across!

You\'ve got to be accurate, punctual, unendingly curious... and know your subject matter inside out and back to front.

Some of the best translators I know worked for years in their relevant field of specialization before becoming translators - I couldn\'t do what I\'m doing without having \"done time\" in investment banking! icon_smile.gif



Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:35
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Self-confidence - at least an asset for a good translation Apr 25, 2002

Quite necessary, especially when one has to convey other person\'s ideas s/he does not share.


Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Enviable? Apr 25, 2002

David said: \"We are not really that special, I would simply say we are fortunate.\"

When I was in academia, a US journalist said once to me with envy: You, academics, have such a comfortable life... Indeed, when I was leaving that university back in 1989, the AVERAGE salary there was $50,000, with New York around the corner, it looked great. But before that, I had actually worked as a journalist myself. How exciting! Going great places, meeting interesting people... So, who is more fortunate of the two professions mentioned? The translator? Personally, I do not envy my freelance colleagues. I prefer to remain in the in-house minority (maybe because of the trauma I experienced when freelancing in Italy). As Alison says, there are horses for courses...


Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

Most of us have a past. Apr 25, 2002

Picking up on what Alison said I maintain, that to be a good (or at least durable) freelance translator you have to have a past, i.e. to have \'done time\' somewhere.

Alison did it in banking, I did it in marketing of technical products in 4 languages i Europe for 30 years.

You must also be boundlessly curious and thrilled by learning and to expand your vocabulary.



Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Italian to English
Well, good translators are ... Apr 25, 2002

Hi Roberta,

Good translators are:

S for \"self-critical\"

(always seeking to improve);

A for \"analytical\"

(a good translator sees beyond the words);

I for \"inquisitive\"

(always willing to learn);

N for \"neat\"

(in presenting work, organising your hard disk, keeping your business affairs in order and so on);


T for \"tenacious\"

(willing to sacrifice time, money and sometimes even relationships to get it right).

So there you have it. A good translator is a \"S-A-I-N-T\".

And this, of course, is precisely what most customers want - someone who will work miracles for no reward.




Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:35
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The love for words and peoples understanding Apr 25, 2002

Love and respect for foreing cultures...

Love and respect for the meaning of the words ...

The belief in the power of words, in the significance of human communication...


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 09:35
German to English
+ ...
Good question Apr 25, 2002

Here are some of my ideas (based on my own personal experience and that of other translators I know) - in no specific order:

- love of languages AND different cultures and countries

- love of information & knowledge (i.e., being interested in almost any subject matter)

- \"pedantic\": it is, I believe, our \"déformation professionnelle\"

- being a bit of an actor: we have to be able to absorb somebody else\'s ideas and make them our own (this is especially true of interpreters: I always find myself adopting the same body language as the speaker)

- most of us come from a bilingual and bicultural background

- free-spirited in the sense that we are not fixed in one place; we can pick up our things and move somewhere else just like that

- there\'s a bit of a \"librarian\" in all of us: finding pleasure in doing research

- some of us may have ended up in this profession because of \"too many\" interests, and translation gives us the opportunity to deal with different subjects day in and day out

- for most of us, I guess, our passion may reach back all the way to childhood: I remember that I would translate comic books and other material from German to English when I was 8 or 9 (cut&paste, then photocopy the end result to make it look like the real thing icon_smile.gif)

- \"having a past\": I know one translator/interpreter (German/Russian) who was a prisoner of war in WWII (in Russia); while in Russia, he learnt Russian, and after the war, once he\'d returned home, he started working as an interpreter.


Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Great so far! Pls continue! :-) Apr 25, 2002

self-motivating (to the point of workaholism), stubborn, quietly self-confident, always looking beyond the surface, inquisitive, perfectionists, diplomatic but unyielding when you know you are right, eager to help...

Multicultural, varied background of which we are proud (but deep, deep down wishing to belong more to one particular place?)

Thrilled by recognition (but uncomfortable in the limelight?)

Able to see things through different perspectives

How many of us chose to become translators to dedicate more time to family/kids?

(how many of us get up early or work late, to dedicate more time to the kids?)

Experts at juggling with duties, fitting everything in like a jig-saw puzzle, hating to \"waste\" even a few minutes (half an hour \"to kill\" before picking up the kids from school: cappuccino or supermarket? supermarket)

Cat lovers or dog lovers? (my guess: cat-lovers)

Favourite holiday: lying on a sunny beach with a good book? visiting places or people? nature or culture? with or without laptop? (when did you last have a holiday?)

Organised and tidy (if you can just overlook the cluttered desk), thanks to excellent memory where everything is neatly stored and immediatly retrieved - much better than a dump! (but thanks God they\'ve invented TM\'s)

Favourite film? Favourite book? Favourite music?



Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:35
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
[quote] S-A-I-N-T Apr 25, 2002


On 2002-04-25 13:08, giles wrote:


You are always great with acronyms, Giles!

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