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How to cope with extremely boring source texts?
Thread poster: Nadja Balogh

Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:33
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
+ ...
Oct 3, 2015

Hi everyone,

I just finished a large bunch of patent translations which all had very similar subjects and one other thing in common:

They were almost mind-numbingly boring.

Of course, patents are bound to be dry and repetitive, and I'm more or less used to it, but these ones were far worse than anything I ever encountered. It almost made me cry sometimes because my brain simply refused to continue processing this stuff.

I was frequently tempted to alleviate the boredom by listening to some music on the side, but then I didn't dare to since one needs to be careful especially with patent translations not to miss any little details which could make all the difference.

I'm curious how everyone else is dealing with this type of problem (I assume that there are not many translators who have the privilege of exclusively dealing with extremely interesting texts) - do you take frequent breaks to clear your mind, or do you try to get it over with by working extra hard (my approach)? Are there any other tricks I could use next time?

Nadja


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Change yourself Oct 3, 2015

I don't know... perhaps one might consider passing on the work to someone less boredom-prone. In my experience, desperation (for work, or money to pay the bills) tends to mitigate these things.

Consider the term "boring". I know, it comes with the territory, but... what does it really mean? Is it the text, or is it the author? Is it me? Or is it just the result of my possibly twisted weltanschauung or overly optimistic expectation that every job will be interesting or fun? ... etc.

All I can say is that I've seen what truly boring (i.e. non-translation) jobs are like on more than one occasion and have often thanked the heavens that I don't have to go down that road every day, because I'm a translator.


 

Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:33
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I know those other jobs too Oct 3, 2015

neilmac wrote:
All I can say is that I've seen what truly boring (i.e. non-translation) jobs are like on more than one occasion and have often thanked the heavens that I don't have to go down that road every day, because I'm a translator.


I didn't mean to whine - I've had my share of truly boring non-translation jobs too, and I'm extremly happy being a translator.

I was actually just curious how others cope with those boring jobs which do appear every now and then, that's all.

Nadja


 

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:33
Member (2015)
German to English
Breaks Oct 3, 2015

I don't handle patents but I have also had my fair share of boring jobs. I usually determine how much I need to do in a day and then spread it out with other translations in between or keep breaking off to read the news or catch up with proz, which makes my working day longer but that's the beauty of being independent.

As a student I worked in a gherkin factory packing gherkins by hand into glass jars. A job that was tedious, mind-numbingly boring and smelt awful. I can't see a gherkin now without being revolted but nothing now ever seems as bad.


 

Endre Both  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:33
Member (2002)
English to German
Do you use CAT tools? Oct 3, 2015

Not being a patent translator, I realise my experience might not be comparable. As a technical translator I am almost always operating at full steam – even with repetitive texts. My CAT tool takes care of things that a machine can do better than humans, and what is left is difficult enough that it needs my full attention.

Even without actual repetitive sentences (or even fuzzy matches), I have my hands full updating and retrieving terms from the CAT tool's term base, relieving me from the chore of entering standard terms and speeding up the process a point that makes even standard technical fare an intellectual challenge again.

So maybe using (and learning) technical tools to take the drudge out of the more mechanistic parts of our job can be one way out.

Or do you mean repetitive and boring not literally but in a more metaphysical sense like "just more of the same" without actual repetition? I can relate to that; for instance I sometimes grapple with texts that are obviously just hot air that won't possibly be of any objective use to anyone on the globe. I have no silver bullet for such jobs, I just try to focus on smaller, technical challenges like specific turns of phrase, automation of tasks that can be automated and sheer speed in words per hour, which makes it a challenge again.

Maybe some form of diversification into other subject domains could help in the longer term? Apart from my main field which is IT (and which in itself is diverse enough that I am unable to fully cover it), I do enjoy jobs that relate to automobiles, photography or market research.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Company tax forms - mini-targets Oct 3, 2015

Yes, I sometimes have "boring" (but lucrative) translations to do. For example, bundles of company tax forms - often 40 or more pages of standard company tax declaration forms - with tables of figures, copious footnotes in tiny print, etc.
I get through them by setting myself mini-targets (e.g. 5 more pages, Jenny, and then you can have a break - have a treat, chocolate, fag, walk on the promenade, etc.). It helps and it's satisfying to see that I'm meeting my targets and making steady progress. It's bliss when the job is at last completed and dispatched.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 08:33
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Splitting of source texts Oct 3, 2015

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth wrote:

I don't handle patents but I have also had my fair share of boring jobs. I usually determine how much I need to do in a day and then spread it out with other translations in between or keep breaking off to read the news or catch up with proz, which makes my working day longer but that's the beauty of being independent.



I did many JP-EN patent translations. I believe that they are extremely boring since Japanese grammar and English grammar run on opposite directions e.g. subject+verb alignment. I got rid of boring sense by splitting the source texts into a number of simple sentences [in contrast to complex or compound sentences]. I had no numbing of brain and I enjoyed the logic of the sentences fully.
Patent and legal texts are equally boring. Why not handle them similarly?

Soonthon L.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:33
Russian to English
+ ...
I occasionally listen to music Oct 3, 2015

only when the text is very boring, and mechanical, sort of. A disclaimer: I find very few things boring. I really love patents. Numbers are more boring. Music may really help—it will take away the feeling that you are wasting your life. Good luck.

[Edited at 2015-10-03 10:44 GMT]


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:33
Member
Italian to English
Think of the money Oct 3, 2015

Or don't accept boring jobs if the boredom is a factor that negatively affects your working day.

 

Helena Chavarria  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A bit of stress does wonders Oct 3, 2015

Jenny Forbes wrote:

I get through them by setting myself mini-targets (e.g. 5 more pages, Jenny, and then you can have a break - have a treat, chocolate, fag, walk on the promenade, etc.). It helps and it's satisfying to see that I'm meeting my targets and making steady progress. It's bliss when the job is at last completed and dispatched.


I also do things like that but it doesn't always work because when I'm bored I tend to work slower. The best solution for me is when I have unwillingly fallen behind schedule and I have to work quickly so as to finish on time.

I'm so focused on finishing the work that I don't have time to get boredicon_wink.gif


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:33
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I use what I call a 15/15 plan Oct 3, 2015

Use a wall clock or the timer on your computer (don't use a kitchen timer or cell phone alarm - you'll see why later).

Your goal is to concentrate on your project for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes, you do something you enjoy or something distracting (watch TV, read a book, browse your favorite internet site, clean the house, play with the dog, etc.) for 15 minutes. Then it's another 15 minutes of work... If you get distracted during the 15 of work, you have to start the "clock" over.

Eventually what happens is that you will suddenly realize that you have worked well over your 15 minutes without realizing it.

You can then move on to the 30/15 plan (30 minutes of work, 15 minute break)...

Another "trick" I use is that I will spend the first two-three days on a project doing no translation at all, but simply looking up and researching terminology, making notes on the print-out and "pre-translating" the document in my head. Then I read the source document once again before I even start to translate. By the time I get to translating, it is not so difficult or boring and things go very fast because you don't have to stop and think so much.

[Edited at 2015-10-03 15:09 GMT]


 

Nadja Balogh  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:33
Member (2007)
Japanese to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
15/15, I see! Oct 3, 2015

Jeff, your "15/15 trick" really sounds appealing.

I normally consider myself more or less immune to the boredom problem - I translate patents virtually every day and actually do like them a lot. It was just this very specific bunch, all from the same company and probably written by the same author(s), which drove me absolutely crazy - even with the aid of CAT tools and such.

But they were well paid - a consolation indeed (it helped convincing my brain to move on to the next superfluous and redundant long-winded sentence).

Nadja


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:33
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Another "trick" I use... Oct 3, 2015

is to imagine myself as the author of the document (although this works best with complaint letters). For example, you could image yourself as the inventor hoping to get rich from the patent.

[Edited at 2015-10-03 15:54 GMT]


 

Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:33
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Every time Oct 4, 2015

Hello Nadja,

Like most of us, I enjoy translating; but sometimes, when I have reached 3,000 words more or less of a company by-law (e.g.), I have to think or do the following:

1. Every time I write a paragraph, I'm earning money (you can think of this with every word, but this might slow down your performance and, therefore, making you earn less).

2. Every time I write a paragraph, I'm closest to the end (you can think of this with every word, but this might slow down your performance and, therefore, making the end longest too).

3. Spend a little of my daily time expanding my business: learning tools, answering Kudoz, sending my fees; I remember then that every time I write a paragraph I'm earning moneyicon_smile.gif .

Of course, taking breaks, going to swim, partying with friends may help too!

[Edited at 2015-10-04 14:31 GMT]


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 07:03
English to Hindi
+ ...
Charge more Oct 5, 2015

Jeff's 15/15 idea is a good one, I employ a version of it myself. I keep an interesting website open and just switch to it when I am almost dead with boredom with the mundaneness of the translation at hand, the resuscitation is instant.

Another trick is to charge more, and think of your increasing bank balance with every word you translate - this can spice up even the most killingly boring translation and make it immensely rewarding (literally, too).

[Edited at 2015-10-05 02:23 GMT]


 
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