Thursday, 23 October 2014

Should translators blog?

Should translators blog, or is it a waste of time? I recently came across “The Case Against Blogging”, a guest post by Karen Tkaczyk on Corinne McKay’s blog. Karen argues blogging is not the best use of a translator’s time and advocates a blog should be uncommon, regular with a predictable posting pattern, novel, and/or entertaining or instructive.

Blogging helps reduce translators’ invisibility.

I’m aware there are a couple of excellent specialised translator blogs out there. But what about all other, more general blogs, including mine? Judging from my own experience, I agree with Karen on the following:

Starting a blog will not bring in lots of new customers.

This is true of my business, too. My customers have come to me via other avenues, but certainly not via my blog. There are numerous other – and to my mind much more effective – strategies to make yourself known as a translator and bring in business. I, too, doubt strongly that potential clients are keen on reading translator blogs.

The style required for a blog is different from the style required for many types of translation.

Yes, and it also applies to my work. The style needed to attract blog readers is worlds away from the style required for patent translation, which typically is dry, verbose, and heavy-going. The style that I have to use tends to be awkward and over-exact – also because I’m sometimes required to reproduce errors, for example.

Most translators should not have a blog.

There are very many translator blogs out there overall. Off the top of my head, I can even think of more people who blog than of people who don’t. And many of us write more or less on the same topics. So is the translator blog market for less specialised content saturated? I think Karen may well be right on this.

It is okay to blog if you find it personally satisfying and don’t care if anyone reads it.

And that hits the nail on the head for me! I find it extremely satisfying on a personal level. I’m not a typical blogger in that my posts are infrequent and I do not even allow comments. However, I’ve never regretted starting this blog, and I’m going to continue writing posts whenever I find the time. Here’s why:

Blogging is intellectually challenging.

I can give my brain a task to work on that is different from translating. It is therefore often really nice for a change! Note that translating involves sticking to the source text to a greater or lesser degree – greater in my case – and conveying every single aspect and nuance. By contrast, when it comes to blogging, I can write freely and creatively.

Blogging helps me gain a clearer perspective.

Writing something down provides a clearer view of what is going on within me. I am sure I’m not the only one who encounters problems in translations with the answer suddenly popping into my head just because I’d started writing an e-mail to a translator forum! The same is true of blogging. It can also motivate to bring about change in various circumstances.

Blogging helps me get things off my chest.

My blog offers a space not just for event write-ups (which I love doing), but also a platform for venting my thoughts. I can write about anything I like, whenever I like. How often have I felt so much better after sending out a post into the cybersphere – especially when I’d been really annoyed about something! It’s curious, too, that others tend to take you more seriously once you’ve published something “officially” on your blog.

Blogging is enjoyable and a way of connecting with the world.

Writing is fun. A blog may not be overly beneficial from a marketing point of view (which I don’t need mine to be as I’m usually inundated with work anyway). Personally, however, I think a blog is a must for anyone who lives and works on the web, as translators do. I only felt I was properly living on the web after starting this blog. It’s also fascinating to occasionally go and check in which corners of the world it’s been accessed – be that the US, Thailand or Austria. (By the way, this blog now has more readers in the US than in the UK!)

Blogging is a way of connecting with the world.

Blogging lets me tap into a skill I am better at than talking.

Translators are by nature better at expressing themselves in writing than verbally. There is some illuminating research into how introverts’ as opposed to extroverts’ brains work. Put simply, introverts’ brains have a higher level of internal activity, and it takes thoughts longer to travel around brain pathways. It’s hence no wonder that many introverts (although notable exceptions exist!) are drawn to professions like writing, translating, researching, accountancy, or computer programming. Therefore, isn’t a blog the perfect tool for communicating with the world?

Blogging helps reduce translators’ invisibility.

Translation is an industry worth an estimated 33 billion US$1; yet it often seems the public is not even aware of its presence. What better way than via a blog to throw light on what translation is about, what translators do, and why it’s important? The more of us who blog, the more effect it will have. We should all make an effort and promote a more positive image of the translation profession. Blogging is just one tool to help achieve this, but it’s a particularly powerful one! A blog also lets you control your own public image. I feel this applies also if you publish posts infrequently.

You can gain a clearer perspective by blogging.

So my take on whether translators should blog or refrain from it is this: It may turn out to be a waste of time if you’re still building your business. However, if any of the above appeals to you and you have some time to spare, why not?

1 source: Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche