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Are you ever 'in flow' when you are translating?
Thread poster: Peter Riccomini
Peter Riccomini  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 7, 2014

According to Wikipedia "Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does."

Personally, I have experienced this in other types of work, but not in translation. This seems to be because one is always going backwards and forwards between the source text and the translation. As a consequence, I find it difficult to stay focussed for long periods (except when the deadline is close!).

I would be very interested in what other translators have to say about this.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:05
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, absolutely. Apr 7, 2014

All the time, except the time I am really tired, or sick--and then the best thing for me is not to translate for awhile, until I get back to my normal state.

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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:05
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Only with certain types of work Apr 7, 2014

This happens to me sometimes, but only with certain types of text - usually with non-technical, creative work, where the source text is just a starting point. When I really get going, I can go on for hours without a break and be oblivious to my surroundings or the passage of time. It has happened many times that when I "wake up", I notice my cup of tea or coffee has gone completely cold... For some reason, this seems to happen more often in the evenings - in the daytime I seem to get distracted more easily.

Other things that can do this are reading and some video games - I'm a great fan of The Sims games, and I can't even imagine how many hours I've spent with them, especially building and decorating houses...


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Texte Style
Local time: 08:05
French to English
Definitely! Apr 7, 2014

I wouldn't be able to do it otherwise!
It usually all falls in place at about 4pm, I'm producing smooth, sharp prose and suddenly I realise that everyone else has gone home (I share an office with some great, quiet people who enjoy company at lunchtime).

The more creative power is called on to produce a beautiful text, the more I need that flow.

When a PM asks for a job to be delivered before 4 pm my first thought is always "well it's your funeral"


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Natasha McBain  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:05
Spanish to English
Yes, but as Niina said, only with certain types of work Apr 7, 2014

I think the key here is in 'enjoyment'. If the subject or the type of text engages me and the language is not too technical, I can certainly become completely absorbed in translating it.

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Olav Karlsen
Norway
Local time: 08:05
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Ti depends Apr 7, 2014

Natasha McBain wrote:

I think the key here is in 'enjoyment'. If the subject or the type of text engages me and the language is not too technical, I can certainly become completely absorbed in translating it.


To me it depends on the quality of the source text. If it contains a lot of typos and elementary grammatical errors you get irritated. Also lack of word consistency. In the latter case translating into the same Word means that you have to fight for it if/when the QA analysis hints that you have made a mistake.


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Maria Popova  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 09:05
Member (2011)
German to Bulgarian
+ ...
Depends on the source text Apr 7, 2014

It all depends on the source text. With certain source texts (not necessarily literature) I "hear" the target text in my mind. This is such an overwhelming "voice" that my fingers have only to follow my mind... I love such inspiring source texts. Other source texts seem to be "locked". I force them into the target language but they actually don't want to go there. It's a kind of a battle. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for translating any text at all and this can be a real disaster if I'm working on a big project. In general a well written source text can always put me in an excellent mood for translating it.

[Edited at 2014-04-07 13:58 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 08:05
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It is what I aim at Apr 7, 2014

Before I start translating in earnest, I read the source text through and look up terminology, think of possible phrasing here and there, and note it down with a pencil.

Then I try to work though the text as smoothly as possible.
If I am really stopping to check every other word, I go back to the pencil stage and do a section 'the old way'.

I certainly don't succeed every time, but that is how I actually work fastest and feel most satisfied with the results.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 08:05
English to Polish
+ ...
often Apr 7, 2014

Often, yeah. Notwithstanding the going back and forth.

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:05
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Same method Apr 7, 2014

Christine Andersen wrote:

Before I start translating in earnest, I read the source text through and look up terminology, think of possible phrasing here and there, and note it down with a pencil.

Then I try to work though the text as smoothly as possible.
If I am really stopping to check every other word, I go back to the pencil stage and do a section 'the old way'.

I certainly don't succeed every time, but that is how I actually work fastest and feel most satisfied with the results.


I am faster working like that


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Texte Style
Local time: 08:05
French to English
Agree with Maria Apr 7, 2014

I love the idea of texts that "don't want to go there", I do get that impression sometimes with certain texts that are too far from the mindset of a NES. Last week it was a text about the links between wine and the Catholic church, underpinning the French attitude to wine. Some of it came across as far too high-falutin', preposterously pompous prose. I had to instil a more prosaic tone and qualify certain rather far-fetched statements of opinion as forming part of the French mindset, rather than as absolute truths, which was how the author had couched them. This is one of the things I love in translation, where I do get the feeling that I did a good job.

As for beautifully written texts, they can be a challenge too - the very best of challenges - and I will worry away at it until I feel that I have managed to do justice to the author's skill. It may take twice as long as I had hoped but it's why I love translating.

Bizarrely I do also get a kick out of producing a polished translation even when the source is littered with mistakes. I was particularly proud when I managed to work out that "Itrlznfr fu notf" was to be translated as Northern Ireland (the typist had misplaced her left hand, one key to the right, using an AZERTY keyboard). I pointed it out to the client and joked that in the future I would triple my rate for future similar mistakes - to which they agreed wholeheartedly!


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Max Ahumada  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 03:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Most of the time Apr 7, 2014

But my attention span fluctuates from time to time and when this happens it's probably about time I take a short brake.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 14:05
Chinese to English
Rarely when translating, sometimes when editing Apr 8, 2014

It does happen, for me in translation, but only for quite a narrow class of texts - not so easy that they're boring, and not so difficult that I have to keep looking up references. Unfortunately, I have a taste for difficult texts, so I'm always jumping out to Google and read background material, and that stops me getting into the flow much.

It happens more during editing, when I've got the meaning clear and I deliberately empty my head and try to "drive fast" through the text, feeling for any bumps in the road. When things are going well, I can find the bumps, the badly constructed paragraph or the disconnected metaphor, fix them and "drive" on without ever dropping out of gear. That's a great feeling.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:05
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Rarely on a first day Apr 8, 2014

The first day of a long job is usually the toughest. But I think I sleep on it, and often I can coast the rest of the way in focus. It probably works along the lines of what Christine said.

I also take care to keep myself well-rested, taking frequent breaks. It's one way of provoking what some people call "fresh eyes".


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Simona Micutari  Identity Verified
Sweden
English to Romanian
+ ...
Yes Apr 8, 2014

Yes, absolutely. That's how I realized that translation is an excellent career choice for me. When I translate, I feel completely involved, immersed in what I'm doing. I always feel energized and overwhelmed with satisfaction whenever I finish a project and I can't wait for the next one. If that's not flow, then I don't know what is!

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