Next time you read a translation…

Many people are quick to assume that translating is the easiest job in the world.

How different reality is! As insurance companies know, translating is one of riskiest professions, health-wise.

Translating forces people to be stationary and hardly move a muscle besides a few that get overexercised, along with their tendons.

Translation deadlines are often impossibly tight.

These days, with so many translations being sourced in low-cost countries, translators in high-cost countries often feel that they cannot afford to negotiate a more relaxed deadline or a better rate. It is not rare for translators to pull allnighters.

Being forced to purchase a slew of translation software, so that you can load the client’s translation memory and work at even lower rates is a more recent development.

Combined with that is the pressure to translate “drivel”. That is what a very good and highly experienced professional translator I happen to know calls it. Drivel. He deals with it very well and makes a pretty good living. At least, he used to, a decade or so ago and I assume that that is still the case.

Avoiding dying of a heart attack as well as avoiding or dealing with neuromusculoskeletal complaints are the average translator’s everyday main challenges.

There is also the assumption that anyone can translate… That it does not take much to be a good translator. Wrong again.

Next time you see a translated text… stop for a moment and think of the reality of the person who crafted that text for you to suit your needs.

Translating fiction or translating in a relaxed manner without tight deadlines, with a glass of wine at hand and some jazz playing, that can be doable. But how many professional translators have that luxury?

It takes a very special kind of person to be a good translator. These are often people with a Master’s in the field they work in, such as chemistry. Others have medical degrees or a specialization in linguistics. 

Translating can be so stressful – physically and mentally – that it regularly forces translators into sick leave. I know one who currently is. She too is a Dutch migrant, but in another country. 

I want you to think about that next time you run into a crappy translation of instructions for how to use the impossibly dirt-cheap product you just bought or anything else that has been translated by someone for you. Such as the subtitles of that TV series you are going to watch tonight.

Mindfulness. Send some positive energy. A virtual bunch of flowers to say “thank you” to that translator.

Thank you.

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