Bucket for the unwanted

Not only is Facebook a means by which we can interact with all manner of friends and family, it is also a repository of the photographs we take and the things we write.  The following is taken from a Facebook update I made on 29 August 2014. I probably wrote it on Facebook because I did not have a blog-worthy photograph. I thought it was worth sharing now:

Other translators who work with my Outer Hebrides agency (not its true location) must still be on holiday. This means that I have completed almost double my normal workload in the last week, thus securing some peace of mind for when I return from my own holiday and business trips at the end of September. The best part is that I am not feeling at all tired. Just as well, because from tomorrow morning, I begin another marathon lasting several days.

I say “marathon” because of a thread on the Portuguese FB group today which made a point I fully endorse, and which runs counter to the common perception encountered among the general population in Portugal that anyone can be a translator; that the act of translation itself is easy; that it is an easy way to make a bit of extra money; and all you need is a fairly decent knowledge of a couple of languages and an Internet connection and hey presto! you’re made for life!

At the risk of borrowing ideas from my esteemed colleague, let me state what I believe – at the very minimum – is required to be a translator:

In depth knowledge (and mastery of) your translation languages, training and qualifications, experience, substantial investment in technology and the tools of the trade and in continued professional development (this means hard work), informing oneself constantly of trends within the profession, developments in your languages and their cultures, in-depth and constantly updated knowledge of the subjects which you translate. That’s for starters.

What you also really need is dedication, stamina, stamina, stamina, a memory like an elephant, passion, determination, coffee, coffee, coffee, the ability to gobble, digest and regurgitate enormous quantities of information and present the results in an impeccable written style without typos day after day after night after day, flexibility, firmness, an imagination, creativity, stamina, focus, concentration, excellent negotiating skills and an in-built calculator to help you with all those quick decisions, a bucket for all those unwanted commas, a sense of humour and a sense of the serious, and a true love of marathons which makes all translation a discovery and a joy (thank you St. Ignatius of Loyola for the cadence of that last phrase), and of course, humility, a good alarm clock, decisiveness, sheer guts, and a lovely, genuine smile when your client from a different time zone interrupts your sleep, and you are obliged to talk with a dry mouth in a language you were not dreaming in and, moreover, remember in an instant just how many miles you still have to go on your current marathon, and agree to a minor diversion from your planned route to keep the customer satisfied.

Once you’ve got all that taped, translation is a piece of ol’ cake.

Raindrops on concrete, like so many squashed, unwanted commas.
There are marathons, and marathons.  My current marathon is neither a literal one involving running nor a translation marathon. It is a demand from life (yeah, life with a big F) that I go the distance.  I know this. Today, I found myself standing up straight, assuming my full height, and looking straight ahead at myself in the mirror. The image that the mirror returned reminded me of each of my parents in turn, and the person who has made it this far. I remember a similar, much younger face looking out at me the morning I wrote my first “O” Level examination – and many other mornings before, which would take too long to explain.

©2017 Allison Wright

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