De Perdidos, Al Río

by Calum O’Donnell, 4th year student in LINCS

Going to Heriot-Watt University was one of the better decisions I’ve made with regards to my academic career. Perhaps the best decision, however, was choosing Interpretation and Translation, a subject that presented the opportunity to experience life abroad.

In August 2013 I embarked on a journey that would take me to the Spanish capital city of Madrid. I was to spend five months there as an undergraduate exchange student on the Erasmus programme, and it would end up being some of the greatest months of my life. Be it cheering on Cristiano Ronaldo in the world famous Santiago Bernabéu, bustling my way down the Gran Via or the rumbling chaos of the metro system, Madrid was a vibrant city that you can’t help but love. Not to mention, the city of Madrid was so excited about my arrival, they preemptively called a Metro station after me in my honour, ‘Metro O’Donnell’.

My first impressions were the same as every young, naïve student on their year abroad. Excited to be there, but intimidated by the prospect that I had to do everything myself. I’d scoured the internet for weeks before my departure, looking up tips, hints and must-do’s for when I arrived, but nothing can prepare you for stepping off the plane and realising that you’re quite literally thousands of miles outside your comfort zone. ­

I remember my first few days in the city; hurtling by in a blur of broken, nervously spoken Spanish, an astounding ability to seemingly spend money as if it was going out of fashion and an even better ability to find myself lost and sweaty in amongst the locals, even though whatever map I was reading was telling me, quite clearly, that I was in the right place.

Some of the biggest learning curves happened for me during my first month of living abroad. Things that seemed so difficult at the time such as; getting myself a sim card, viewing flats, organising my University enrolment or even ordering at restaurants and shops, are now things that happen naturally when I’m in Spain. I remember vividly stumbling through my personal details and my need for a sim card at the Orange phone shop during one of my first weeks in the country. The rookie mistake of rehearsing conversations in my head before they happened hindered me at the start of my trip, it was difficult for me to just let go and trust my ability to listen and understand in Spanish, even if during the first weeks I had no idea what was being said to me.

Organising myself and being sensible about getting the most out of my year abroad experience was pretty important to me, and this meant meeting as many people as I could and trying to have as much fun with learning the Spanish language and culture as I could.

So before leaving for Spain I’d made a short list of things to do, detailing my need to:

  1. Find a flat.
  2. Enrol in University.
  3. Improve my Spanish.

The first item ticked off of this list, rather unsurprisingly, was Find a flat. I’d met up for some viewings with an older gentleman by the name of Arturo, who said he had a perfect flat for what I was looking for. Situated in the infamous Arguelles, near the heart of the city, with two English boys and a Venezuelan lad who could speak less English than I could Spanish. The flat was on Calle Andres Mellado, and it was as good as home. Later in my stay, the flat would affectionately be referred to as ‘El Palacio’, which, rather obviously, translates as the Palace, but it never seemed to catch on with the locals or my friends… Funny that.

Getting a well-situated flat with three good guys was the best thing I could have done for myself. It meant that missing a metro or coming home when the sun was rising presented little problem. We were a 15-minute walk from the Gran Via (which made life very easy), a 54-second walk to the door of the Metro station (yes, I counted it) and a 10-minute walk from our local gym (which we never used), the Palace was the perfect place for me. Life was good. I’d managed to cross off the first item on my list and I’d barely been there a week. I was good at this Year Abroad stuff.

Enrolling at my chosen Spanish institution however, the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, was something that had to be seen to be believed. A myriad of emails and notices (all in Spanish…of course) were sent to my student account about enrolling on a Tuesday at an obscure building on the University’s campus at Cantoblanco, about 30-minutes north of Madrid. I headed up and tried my best to navigate my way through the sea of bodies chittering Spanish slang and the confusing signage that seemed to dominate the campus, but failed to find the room. I’d asked for directions several times, but the flurry of Spanish that was aimed my way was unintelligible to me at the time. I was slowly discovering that ‘pánico ciego’ was an adequate way to describe my mental state and perhaps my facial expression when attempting to understand the rapid fire of words that the Spaniards said to me, ‘pánico ciego’ in English, by the way, means blind panic.

However, once enrolled (tick no.2 off of that list!) and attending classes, life became considerably easier. The lecturers in each of my classes spoke clearly, concisely and I found myself grinning ear to ear when I understood complex phrases or laughing along with the class. Soon, conversations with other Spaniards become natural and I even started to hum along to Spanish songs when out and about…the same ones I air-guitar’d to back at the Palace. There were several classes I looked forward to each week, ranging from Lenguas en Contextos (Languages in Context) and Literaturas Europeas (European Literature), the one that I liked the most was Traducción General (General Translation). There was a great atmosphere in the class and everyone loved the fact that there were two native English speakers to keep them all right, even if they were from Fife and Glasgow, respectively. The work ethic that I encountered in each of the classes was pretty incredible. Every class had a studious attitude and they focussed a lot on the work they did outside of class. One thing I came to hate, however, was the gentle hum of whispered conversations whenever the lecturers would speak, which appeared to be a done thing in Spain… I can only imagine the look on one of my current lecturer’s faces if I decided it acceptable to conduct a mini-conference during their class.  I’m a stalwart for manners, and this pushed me close to the edge!

Making friends as native English speakers was something that, luckily, came quite easily. People quickly realised that I wasn’t from Madrid (or Spain, for that matter), and after making several guesses at French, English or Irish, they would often remark enthusiastically on how cool it was to have a Scottish person at the University, although pronouncing ‘Callum’ proved to be quite a challenge for most. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organised many social outings and these really helped me to immerse myself in all aspects of Spanish culture. I feel my year wouldn’t have been quite the same without them all. I found a whole host of people who wanted to do similar things to me, be it heading out into the bright city lights during the day, or braving the crazy Spanish party lifestyle by night. The ESN society was something that I didn’t expect to be so helpful and fun, but not only were they there to help us enjoy ourselves in Madrid but they were there if we ever needed a solution a Spanish problem or a friendly face to chat to. The experience with the ESN in Spain led me to enquire more about the ESN back at Heriot Watt and will be a good break from my fourth year studies this year.

All in all, it was an incredible five months for me in Madrid. I’ve been back several times since, and I’ve yet to spend a penny on accommodation. People are always so warm and welcoming when I go back, and I credit it all to my year abroad. Meeting new people and hearing their stories are one of the reasons I decided to study languages in the first place, and there is truly no better place to do this than on your year abroad. It amazes me how small the world becomes the older I get. Technology and cheap air travel make keeping in touch with friends, old and new, easier than ever. If you’re lucky enough to be sent by your university on a year abroad, make sure you challenge yourself. As they say, if you’re not living life on the edge, you’re probably taking up too much room.

Hasta luego!

Inventions for Freelancers part 2

Author: Jonathan Downie

Part 2: Interpreters

Last week, we offered a list of 4 inventions that every translator needs. This week, it is the time of interpreters to benefit from the march of technology. True, some of these would be more useful to the friends and families of interpreters than the interpreters themselves but nevertheless, all of them would bring a positive benefit to the world.

1)    Auto-mute

Hang around an interpreter for a while and you will realise that there is a reason they are paid to talk – they are very good at it! This is all well and good but their constant need to show that the can talk and listen at the same time can mean that they wear down those nearest to them. With auto-mute, this problem would be alleviated. All friends or family members would need to do is select the level of conversation they require ranging from “fewer words than a translator at a party” to “louder than a hyper-active toddler”. Anything over the level selected would be automatically screened out and/or stored for later.

2)    Joke Predictor

Ever struggled to interpret a speaker’s poor attempt at humour? Joke predictor would make this easier by spotting this horrible situation in advance and offering you a list of equally unfunny versions in your target language of choice. For a small extra fee, it could be adjusted to see in advance when the speaker is going to make an awful pun and then spend the entire speech dragging every last milligram of humour out of it.

3)    Silent Air-Con

Sweaty booth or loud deep freeze, which do you prefer? Silent Air-Con would make uncomfortable booths a thing of the past by actually keeping the temperature at a reasonable level. Say goodbye to unsightly sweat marks for ever!

4)     Rambler Swatter

No, this wouldn’t hit people who wander through the countryside. Instead, it would detect people whose talks are going to go on for ages without a point or worse, people who say they want to ask a question and proceed to start gibbering from a thick wad of tightly written notes without a question mark in sight. The answer: a swift whack.

It’s one invention that all interpreters, from the courtroom to the board room will love to use. Warning: using this invention may curtail your career.

5)    Accu-Brief

Are you tired of being told a meeting “won’t be technical” only to be confronted with a bunch of white-coated scientists discussing the finer points of bacteriology? What about suddenly realising that it wasn’t a good idea to wear a suit to that mud analysis job? With Accu-Brief, you can wave all of that goodbye. Now, you can be sure that the briefs you get for each job will tell you all the things you need to know and none of the things you don’t. Plus, for the first time, you will receive agendas that won’t change at the last minute!

Once again, over to you.

Inventions For Freelancers pt. 1

Part 1: Translators

With CAT tools, terminology software and corpus-building, one could think that translators had all the productivity enhancements they needed. One would be wrong! In this post, we will sketch out some of the inventions that are most needed in the sector. We take no responsibility for the outcome of anyone actually manufacturing any of these!

1)    Dayjamas

Almost every translator has had the embarrassment of answering the door to the postman while still dressed in flannel or a cotton onesie. Dayjamas would be the solution to this. Made to look exactly like day clothes, Dayjamas would give people the impression that we aren’t the kind of people who shower only once the job is off to the PM. All we would have to do know is explain to the neighbours why there was still light coming from the living room at 3am last night.

2)    Desktop Tanning Lamp

While it is absolutely not true that translators melt in contact with sunlight, long hours in front of the computer can impart that pasty look. With desktop tanning lamps, fitted snugly on top of your monitor, you could get achieve a perfect tan while chipping away at that 10,000 word job on egg packing machinery. All we would need then would be one that can tan the rest of the body through clothes.

3)    Online coffee

One of the rare reasons to leave a computer during a job is to fill up our three gallon coffee or tea mugs. This loses precious time that could easily be used in terminology work or shouting at your crashing CAT software. Online coffee would sort this out. Simply submit your favourite drink onto a website and configure your delivery as you wish. Even better, buy a cup with an integral sensor so that coffee miraculously appears at your door just as you are downing the last drop. Sure, all that might cause us to get the caffeine shakes but the extra work would be so worth it!

4)    360 degree networking headset

Going to networking events is wonderful. It does, however, mean going through the tedious process of picking clothes, ironing them, hunting down business cards and using public transport. With the 360 degree networking headset, we could go to events without leaving our rooms. Better yet, they would allow us to create avatars that look any way we wish. As far as anyone else knows, there is no reason why we don’t all look like like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Why shatter the illusion?

So, what do you think of these? What do you think we need to invent?

Vow of Silence: Day 3

In solidarity with British Sign Language users in the UK, Professor Graham Turner is subject to a self-imposed vow of silence. Can he remain speechless and last for an entire week in BSL? What will he learn from the experience?

Living in Edinburgh, I can barely step out of my front door before someone’s playing the bagpipes at me.

As a matter of fact, I love it. What other country is associated with such a distinctive, pervasive symbol of identity? Ever been to Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo? Once in your life, you should. I may not be a Scot, but up on the battlements, silhouetted against the stars, the piper sends those skirling notes up to the heavens…

Not much use if you’re Deaf, of course.

So is a cultural heritage something you only get if you’re hearing, then?

Do me a favour. Not a bit of it.

The pipes may be great – but YOU HAVEN’T LIVED until you’ve experienced signed art. Had your heart squeezed by signed stories. Washed your eyeballs in tears of laughter at signed comedy. Seen the past re-kindled and the future set ablaze in signed drama.

Oh sorry, I keep forgetting. You ignored sign language until just lately because you thought it wasn’t really as good as speech, didn’t you? Trust me – and I say this as one who’s forgotten more than he cares to remember of the French, Greek, Latin and Swedish he studied in days of yore – you have been mightily misled.

British Sign Language was named – in Edinburgh: where else? – back in the mid-70s by the late, great and much-missed sign linguist, Dr Mary Brennan. The British Deaf Association backed the BSL Training Agency a decade later as it encouraged Deaf people to become professional BSL teachers and pass on their expert knowledge to others – and thousand upon thousand hearing people have opened their minds to BSL since. And it was the BDA again that published its doorstoppingly substantial and globally groundbreaking bilingual BSL-English dictionary in 1992.

So there’s no doubt whatsoever of the linguistic status of BSL. Not only is it a language: it’s a language that can blow your mind.

Unlike users of any spoken language ever discovered, signers can produce more than one word at a time – what did you think you had two hands for? And BSL isn’t just about what the hands do. It’s a full-body experience. Facial expression and bodily action are also exploited as integral features of the grammar. Signed languages are spectacularly creative, constantly playing with words and drenching every expression in a cascade of meaning and nuance.

The signed universe is an astonishing, achingly poetic place to live.

As it happens, Edinburgh is one of the most happening places in the BSL firmament right now. Part of that energy is coming from Heriot-Watt University, where a dozen sign language specialists, from as far afield as the USA and China, passionate and fizzing with ideas, are assembling research evidence  and educating the next generation of UK and global interpreters.

But Edinburgh is also a place to enjoy the cultural depth of the Deaf community, and to experience the rich heritage embodied in BSL. Just last weekend, you could have been at the Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile at the latest Visual Virus show. Three Deaf exponents of the most vivid BSL, and not a sound to be heard all evening except for the cultural heartbeat of the Deaf nation – and that noise people make when they laugh their socks off.

In fact, Scotland stands on the verge of transforming the BSL landscape. With all-party support, Mark Griffin MSP  intends to put a BSL bill before the Scottish Parliament later this year. It will focus minds and energies on securing the future of this language community, and on safeguarding its linguistic human rights.

As yesterday’s BDA BSL Symposium in London clearly showed, the rest of the UK is paying close attention to progress at Holyrood. Deaf people, just like others, are entitled to enjoy our uniquely visual cultural heritage. Our children – including those born to hearing parents – are entitled to share that extraordinary linguistic inheritance.

And, if you only have eyes to see, you’re more than welcome to come in. Just enter through the doorway marked ‘BSL’ and find out for yourself. The future signs.

Author: Graham Turner

Orkney Can Wait

The first time I met a Deaf person was in 2006 as a PhD student. I was asked to help out with BSL exams in Heriot-Watt, to make sure examiners were there
and to look after the candidates. The Deaf examiner made me think how inspiring
it was for someone to overcome a disability and communicate confidently with
hearing people like me, who cannot fingerspell to save my
life.

I was, of course, wrong.

 Not about the examiner, who was indeed wonderful, but about deafness being a disability. It is not. That’s the first thing I learned from attending “Send
the Deaf to Orkney!
”, a debate starring our very own Director of Research, Graham Turner, organised by Beltane during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

 Arriving at the venue, I saw colleagues Gary Quinn, Robyn Dean and many others waiting outside to see the show. They were signing all at the same time, laughing and looking very excited. I wanted to join in, but then again I didn’t want to spoil their fun by being the only person who couldn’t sign. Robyn could have interpreted, but I would still feel like I was intruding. I guess that’s how Deaf people must feel in hearing environments.

 We were given miniature Orkney flags to wave in lieu of clapping or cheering and, shortly after, comedienne Susan Morrison came on stage to introduce the debate. Susan’s introduction was interpreted into BSL by Jemina Napier. Now, you know Jemina is brilliant, not because she is a Professor who has published over 50 papers, written 6 books and holds a Chair in Intercultural Communication at Heriot-Watt, but because she can interpret Glaswegian jokes into BSL with no sweat, having just moved here from Sydney 12 months ago.

 To add to the wow factor, Jeff McWhinney came on stage. Hurricane Jeff – more like! A Deaf entrepreneur and leader in the UK Deaf community, Jeff started signing his way through his argument for sending Deaf people to Orkney in such a vivid and engaging way, I almost didn’t need to listen to the interpreter! Ok, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to figure out the sign for ‘tokenistic’. Deafness with a capital ‘D’ is a culture, a way of life with its own values and language. Deaf people are immensely proud of their language and heritage and it is precisely the protection of this language and heritage that was central to the idea of having a separate, defined space for the Deaf to live in. Their own homeland – a Deafland, away from the tyranny of the hearing world.

But why Orkney? Well, it is an island, and Heriot-Watt already has a campus there, so it would kind of suit us! A Deaf Orkney would at last offer a place where signing came first, and the life of the community could be organised in BSL. The future of the language – in its heritage, visual form, not mixed uncomfortably with English – would be assured.

Jeff was so convincing, I started waving my flag like a maniac.

Graham Turner came on stage and he started signing as well (I’m guessing to remove any communicative bias from the debate). In my naivety, I thought sign-language was all about using your hands, but I soon discovered that you have to use your whole body, the muscles of your face and your mouth. Graham and Jeff were ‘performing’ in the eyes of hearing people, so to speak, but for Deaf people this was just signing. Sign language is a performance in itself, requiring creativity and imagination, which makes it even more fascinating.

So Graham questioned Jeff’s approach by stating that BSL is now valued by hearing people, too. That’s why it’s been recorded as the second most popular adult evening class (after First Aid), and why a BSL GCSE qualification is under serious consideration. So why hide it away on Orkney? Keep Deaf people here, so that our culture is enriched by
theirs!

Ok, well, that was easy enough. I want the Deaf here.
Let’s vote.

Not so fast. The argument is not so simple and linear. Graham and Jeff went back on stage and took turns to make the case for each side again, but reversing their roles. Graham recognised that on Orkney, Deaf families could freely decide not to opt for cochlear implants for their children, without pressure from doctors. Hurricane Jeff protested – attitudes have changed, haven’t you noticed? This is the 21st century! Implants or no implants, you can choose to sign if you want to. And can you imagine such a close-knit Deaf community? Divorce rates in Orkney would skyrocket, as there would be no privacy and everyone would be involved in everyone else’s business!
Nightmare!

Hear hear! I say, let’s vote!

But there was more. The economic dimension of a Deaf homeland in Orkney is crucial. Think about education in BSL without the cost of interpreters, or mental health provision dramatically reduced because Deaf children would be brought up with no identity crisis. And think of the tourism: every Deaf person the world over will want to visit Orkney’s signing haven!

But wait, said Graham, raising his finger. Video interpreting is now possible and a BSL GCSE would ultimately mean more and cheaper BSL interpreters.

Still, the idea of Deaf people having a place to call their own seemed more attractive in the course of the debate. Maybe not Orkney (I’d pick a sunny island in the Mediterranean), but, as it was pointed out, the issues of control over one’s own life and the right to self-determination are equally important. An official Deaf constituency in the UK would mean Deaf parliamentarians contributing to major decisions at the local level.

But do we need a designated Deafland for this to happen? The idea of a public sphere is in our heads anyway. It doesn’t really exist, it emerges with communication. And as long as Deaf people communicate to raise awareness about Deaf issues, their public sphere will be kept alive.

So I wouldn’t book a one-way ticket to Kirkwall just yet.

Author: Katerina Strani

You Might be a Translator if…

LifeinLINCS usually does serious, thought-provoking, analytical posts but it’s summer, so it’s time for a little fun too. So, if you have ever wondered whether you or someone close to you might be a translator, here are some signs to look for:

You might be a translator if…

1)    Your favourite comics have characters who can’t decide between electronic and paper dictionaries.
2)    The nearest you get to a suntan is when you forget to turn down the brightness on one of your three computer monitors.
3)    Seeing the phrase “scanned pdf” sends you running for a crucifix, a clove of garlic and overpriced OCR software
4)    You actually understood number 3.
5)    You write your Christmas and Valentine’s cards using CAT software.
6)    Your CAT crashes and hangs more often than it purrs.
7)    You have complained to your pets about your clients
8)    … in three different languages
9)    … in the past hour alone.
10)    You are not sure whether to find Google Translation funny, annoying or insulting
11)    … but you still secretly use it to get the gist of blog posts written in languages you don’t use
12)    … and you will never, ever openly admit to that!
13)    “Being invited to a party” means “being on an online conference call”
14)    … but you still brought snacks.
15)    You completed a job while still wearing your pyjamas.
16)    People in your family are wondering when you will “get a proper job”.
17)    Your working hours are dictated more by the routine of your children or pets than by the clock.
18)    To you, misplacing a comma is a crime worthy of the death penalty.
19)    The last time you left the house, someone called the police to report a possible intruder in the neighbourhood.
20)    You have a masters degree and a bunch of certificates and yet you still have people asking you to work for less than your local minimum wage.

A Year and a Bit of Blogging About Research

On 1st October this year, LifeinLINCS celebrated a year since its launch. Since then we have covered a whole range of topics from subtitling to court interpreting and from getting a career in translation and interpreting to minority language rights and why people would put careers on hold to go and do research.

It has to be said that the reception has been superb. People from more than 110 countries have checked out the blog. Since the end of February this year, more than 12,000 different people have read at least one post. More than that, almost 100 comments have been left since the blog began, which means that our number of comments far outstrips the number of times we have posted!

And what have you been saying? Well, it seems that odd client behaviour isn’t actually as odd as it might seem. The UK government’s arrangements for court interpreting still inspire anger and it is impossible to over-exaggerate the personality quirks of language professionals.

All of this from a blog that struggled to gain 10 visits a day in its first week. If you had asked the experts then if a blog about research aimed at practising professionals would survive, the answer would have been hidden in fits of laughter. Nowadays, one of our editors gets a bit disappointed if we get less than 100 visits per day and it is not unknown for days to hit ten or even twenty times that!

If nothing else, the past year and a bit has shown that professional practice and rigorous belong together. It has also shown that when this research and the thinking that goes alongside it are presented in an easily accessible way, people will not only read it but will start to talk about it.

So, maybe translation and interpreting isn’t in such bad shape after all!

There is more to come from LifeinLINCS as we seek to broaden the range of language research from Heriot-Watt that we cover, as well as commenting on language stories in the news and, of course, attempting to be funny from time to time. Lookout for next week’s post on what modelling clay can tell us about our clients.

Author: Jonathan Downie

Is it all over for Interpreting?

If you believe the hype, the interpreting profession is on its last legs. NTT Docomo, the biggest mobile phone network has at last managed to provide a service that allows anyone with a smartphone to instantly have their words interpreted. According to this article from the BBC, other companies are working on the same technology. All that remains now is for a few minor tweaks to be done and language barriers are a thing of the past. Cool, eh?

Well, it might be, if things were really that simple. On the accompanying video, BBC presenter, Richard Taylor feeds the software a simple sentence “are there any good restaurants near here?” and an interpreter (mislabelled “translator,” thanks BBC!) responds with something equally as simple. This is the kind of thing that 1st year language students could do in their sleep and even good Machine Translation software could churn out without too much difficulty.

Faced with this simple task, the software performs pretty poorly. Its English-Japanese version is, according to the interpreter, understandable but not much better than that. The Japanese-English, meanwhile, would not exactly be what an interpreter would produce. We are not in minor tweak territory here. We are actually about 10 years behind the current state of the art in machine translation and parsecs away from what one could call “interpreting.”

So, no need to worry, interpreters still have jobs for a few years yet. It is still worth doing training and looking for work.

Even if this technology does work, will it do humans out of work? The answer is, probably not. Just as machine translation has only really cornered the market in getting the “gist” of emails, letters and the like and has actually become another tool for human translators, we can expect something similar to happen here. The only people who might really feel threatened by this technology are phrase book publishers. For simple requests for the direction of the tourist office and panicked searches for the nearest public toilets, a machine translation-enabled smartphone will (eventually) do the trick.

It is difficult to foresee this technology taking over in the court, conference or business markets. Would you really want your perfectly crafted speech to be turned into garbled but minimally understandable googlish? And that might represent the best outcome!

This well-known video illustrates just what the limitations of NTT Docomo’s technology are likely to be. For those with non-standard accents such as Geordies, Aberdonians or even, (shock!) Glaswegians, voice recognition is already struggling. Add in a layer of not quite perfect machine translation and we are looking at comedic breakthroughs rather than technological ones.

Of course, we can never dismiss technology out of hand. It is possible that, just as google managed to create a step change in machine translation by using texts from large international organisations, someone might manage something similar with this. It is just possible that, with years of work and a lot of training, NTT Docomo or someone else might manage to move this from being a gimmick to being of some use. For the foreseeable future, that’s the best that can be hoped for.

So, while reports of the death of interpreting would be greatly exaggerated, phrase books might be pining for the fjords. Once voice activated machine translation can handle those two obscure allusions said in a Glaswegian accent and produce an entertaining version in another language, then we need to start worrying!

Translator Sayings

(in honour of International Translation Day)

Here at Heriot-Watt, we love doing cutting edge research but we can also have a bit of fun. On Wednesday, normal service will be resumed with a post on why some of our PhD students chose to do research. But for now, in honour of International Translation Day, here is a list of the top 10 most common Translator sayings.

10) Working from home does not mean I can spring clean the house before you get back from work!

Yep, it’s the perennial favourite, the myth that working from home means translators do nothing all day. Of course, translators can spring clean the house, wash the cat, dust the dog and change the light bulbs before our partners, children and/or pets get home. No problem! This 3,000 word contract will take care of itself, right?

9) These aren’t pyjamas; they’re my work clothes!

Okay, so few translators actually translate in their pyjamas (we think!). Still, it can be a mite embarrassing when you answer the door to the postman at 10am and are a) still in the house and b) still wearing scrappy clothes. Still, it’s better than having to get up and don a suit by 7am. The idea of being in all day leads to…

8) No, I do not need to “get a job.” I already have one, thank you!

Ever met relatives who felt sorry for you because you didn’t have a 2 hour morning commute to an office? Yeah, someone’s logic is flawed there!

7) It’s 5,000 words long and you want if for 5pm today?

Show me a translator who hasn’t taken one of those calls and I will show you a translator on their first few jobs! It’s is absolutely incredible how we can all fit in so many words before the end of the day, even after we have finished washing the cat!

6) Sorry, I don’t do discounts for large jobs.

… mostly because translators don’t want to lock themselves into a poor rate of pay for months on end!

5) Sorry, I don’t do discounts for “easy” jobs either.

… mostly because clients and translators have different opinions as to what counts as “easy!”  Doing 5,000 words by 5pm today does not count as easy! Especially when you have a cat to wash.

4) I use Trados, MemoQ and thirteen software packages you have never heard of.

… which is an excuse for charging at least the going rate!

3) My specialist areas are x, y and z.

… which means you know you are getting someone who knows what they are doing. It also means it has cost time, effort and money to get this expertise so that’s why the rates are so high.

2) Conference? Did someone say conference?

One of the drawbacks of most translators’ schedules is that it means spending long hours alone. A conference, meet up, tweet up or even random course can mean actually going outside (shock!) and meeting other people (double shock!). Believe it or not, most translators actually know how to make conversation, once their eyes adjust to the light, that is. This leads nicely to the most common thing I have read and heard translators say…

1)    I love my job!

Author: Jonathan Downie