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I'm self-employed and work at home, and my work life entails taking mainly indifferently written German texts and transforming them into polished English. Sometimes, when the texts in question are actually about something (e.g. technical documentation, annual reports), my work provides some fascinating insights; on the other hand, a certain amount of my work involves texts intended not so much convey information as to create the spurious impression that they contain information, or that the information is other than misleading or banal - i.e. marketing texts, news releases or (this week's gag-me-with-a-spoon) management training seminar materials. To that extent, cynicism is probably my greatest occupational hazard.

I don't dislike my work (occasional deadline terror aside). I'm good at what I do, I have the satisfaction of a job well done, and what feedback I get is almost always positive. But the work no longer challenges. I could walk away from it with no regrets. (As a matter of fact, I did bail at one point; I was doing something entirely different for a while, but unfortunately that company chose to commit suicide by management.)

From my perspective the most difficult thing to deal with is not the workload (although it can be pretty consuming) but the fact that virtually all the human interaction in my work is electronically mediated. I have never actually met most of my clients. This makes the whole business seem rather abstract at times, which I don't think is ultimately good.

I have to say, though, that my peers - the other freelance translators with whom I have contact - are as wonderful a wonderful group of people as one could ever hope to meet, interesting, interested and open.

Work-life balance is something I have to wrestle with seriously at the moment. Like many self-employed persons, I am often tempted to take on as much work as I can get (as long as the price is right). At the moment the market is about as hot as I've ever seen it. There are lots of things I would rather by doing right now - scratch that, right this minute I'd like to be cycling - or maybe rollerblading - but I am seriously oversold through the end of the month.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 07:18:59 AM EST
Ok, another freelancer translator experience, not so diffferent than yours, dvx.

·    What is your work?

·    I'm a literary translator, from English to Spanish. I translate mainly fiction, but I've also translated some essays.  Most important authors I've translated are: Nadine Gordimer, William Somerset Maugham, James Ellroy, Edward Rutherfurd.
*    Do you look forward to going to work each day?
·    I don't need to go anywhere. I work from home. I've started 22 years ago with an Olivetti typewriter, so now, with computers, word processors and Internet, I feel like I've been working in two different ages.  And this new age is kind a happy one for my work. I think it is something I envisioned in the eighties when I decided to become a translator, that someday in the near future I could work from everywhere I wanted, and I've already done so, combining long travels while translating with my laptop. Like this I've got to see California and live there for a couple of months while translating James Ellroy or renting a room to translate in an out of season Goa and then keep the laptop safe somewhere and start moving around Rajasthan or the Himalayas. So, even if I don't look forward to starting to translate each day, it comes easy enough after I've checked the news, email, ET, and so on ;-)

    Or, are there certain aspects of your work that you love, but there are other aspects of work that aren't so fun and impact in a negative way the work you like?

·    I love many aspects of my work: the freedom of movements it gives me,  the self -discipline I've had to develop as it is very useful in all other areas of life,  the creativity angle...

·    There are few aspects that aren't fun at all, and sometimes I forget them, bu there is a very recent experience so I think I will vent about it. I've just discover that on the back cover of a book I've devoted 36 hours/ week during 12 weeks (about 300.000 words), someone at the publisher house has made a very ugly and big orthographical mistake just in the last sentence of all.  I'm sure that many people who is deciding if they want to buy the book will be put off by that error. If there is something like this on the back cover, they will not trust in the quality of what they will find inside.

*    Do you wish you could do more of what you like?
I think I've got a good balance.

*    What are the main stresses of your work?
·   
The deadlines, especially when something out of your control happens in the last days. I mean if it happens at the beginning, you always have time to catch up.
  Do you feel fortunate that you have the job or career that you do?
Absolutely.
*    How are your relations with peers, or with bosses, or employees?
My relation with colleagues is through my professional association mailing list and I meet the ones from Barcelona for dinner 3-4 times a year. They are really nice people and the relation and the flow of information are great. I've have no bosses no employees, only clients. 95% are based in Barcelona, so I meet with them and comment every time I start/finish a book.

What do you like to do for fun?
 Going out with friends, photography, cooking, movies, travelling, swimming...  

by amanda2006 on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 09:34:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah. We've been doing this for about the same length of time then. I too started with a typewriter, but acquired a computer shortly after. (I never did enough work on the typewriter to earn back what it cost me.)

You must be at the top of your game with authors like that.

Are you going to be at the meet-up?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 11:25:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, these four I've mentioned are the best, the others are just the usual crime novels or historical fiction or Feng Shui manuals that nobody knows or cares about. It would have been much better for the planet if nobody had ever written 90 per cent of them in the first place, much less translated them to Spanish, but the market rules and the market is hot. (70.000 new titles in Spain in 2006).

On the other hand, a first class author is not a guarantee of selling success, with Da Vinci Code, Patricia Cornwell and the likes. And a great author requires much more work and the difference in terms of money is small. It's like a lottery, somehow.

I don't know if I will be in the Paris meet up. I've booked a quick trip to Amsterdam for the end of May and I'm afraid I will not be able to get another three or four days break for middle June and I don't like the idea of going only for the lunch, as I've not been in Paris since... really long ago.
 

by amanda2006 on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 12:05:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I guess that's the advantage of technical/commercial translation. Plus, in my few encounters with publishing houses (not a representative sample, admittedly) have always left me wondering about their professionalism.

Oh well. Have fun in A-dam!

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 01:13:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a French speaker.
I've been reading Ellroy in English.
Always wondered - How you translate it.
So many sentences. So short.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 08:25:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you are right. It is very hard and sometimes it can be very frustrating. You have to reach a compromise between content and form, as you would do with poetry. You have to transmit all the information that it is contained there, all the different layers of meaning, and at the same time you need to respect the form, sometimes with all his alliterations, pimps, punks, prostitutes panty-sniffers and so on. "The Cold Six Thousand" was especially hard because of the telegraphic style. Latin languages need more words to express the same idea. Ellroy is my "bête noir", a real challenge.
by amanda2006 on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 03:34:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm, could it be that someone (else) is working against a deadline on a Sunday morning? ;-)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 04:39:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 09:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dvx & Amanda, my wife just passsed the Cambridge English test...and I wonder if you would be willing to give her any advice as to how she could get started in the document translation field? How does someone first make contacts? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 09:45:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, the first question is, what does she want to translate, exactly? "Documents" covers a lot of ground.

If she has specialized knowledge from a previous line of work, that might be a starting point for cold-calling (soul-searing as that is).

For commercial and/or technical work, she might want to consider putting her profile up on proz.com. That will be agency work (= not particularly well-paid), but that would at least be a way to build experience. Plus that site has a killer terminology resource. :-)

Also, she should look around for a local translator "Stammtisch". Translators are very helpful to newbies (and can often pass on jobs at better terms than agencies!!).

But I guess I have to come back to my first question: what exactly does she want to translate. They answer is not written in stone (and will change over time), but the more differentiated an answer she can give to the question "What areas do you work in?", the more she will be seen by prospective clients as being knowledgeable.

OTOH, if she wants to do literature, the foregoing  might well be absolutely useless (as I am almost totally clueless in that sector).

And she's welcome to email me if she has any questions.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 02:29:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks dvx, I will be in touch this week...appreciate it!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Apr 23rd, 2007 at 02:40:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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