Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Translation and Minimalism: On Learning and Growing

The minimalist lifestyle is not an end point: it is a process.

It is a learning experience: you learn what you value the most, how to reduce clutter, and consequently how to be much happier! It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey. You identify what is truly essential to your life and what you can live without. It is about constantly challenging yourself. And in the course of this journey, you become more individual and flexible. Minimalism enriches your life and gives you a chance to grow.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey!

The same applies to translation: translation is not an end point, it is a process.

From the day you venture out into the world of translation, it is a learning experience: you constantly pick up new, fascinating aspects of translation and language as you go along. A colleague of mine once remarked that she loves translation so much because she learns something new every day.

Translation sets you off on a journey. You constantly have to challenge yourself: by digging deep into grammar technicalities; by absorbing feedback from revisers; by having a go at new types of text. And on this journey, with time, you become more flexible. Translation gives you a chance to grow.

All this isn’t easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Related posts on this blog:
20/6/2017: The Baffling Solution to Clearing Mental Clutter
10/5/2017:  Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism
7/2/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today
29/9/2014: My 3 Favourite Minimalist Principles
16/9/2011:  Top 10 Misconceptions about Translation and the Translation Profession

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brexit: Translated Article Goes Viral In UK

“If it weren't so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical.”

Last week a translated article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe went viral in the UK. It had been expertly translated by freelancer Paula Kirby and is based on an article written by Christian Zaschke, UK and Ireland correspondent for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest broadsheet newspaper.


An article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe has gone viral in the UK.


The article is an excellent summary of the current situation in regard to Brexit, and both the original and its translation are linguistically brilliant, so well worth checking out! You’ll find Paula Kirby's English translation here and the German source text in Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss newspaper, here. Christian Zaschke’s original comment appeared in Süddeutsche Zeitung and can be accessed here.


At the time of writing this blog entry, Paula Kirby's translation has 24K likes and 51,747 shares on Facebook.

Related posts on this blog:
12/9/2016: Brexit: Positives On The Horizon?
3/8/2016: What Brexit means (for now)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Baffling Solution to Clearing Mental Clutter

We all tend to always have something going on in our minds. Many of us even have voices inside our heads constantly telling us we should do this or that, reminding us of failures or setbacks, and building up clutter in our minds.

There is a bafflingly simple solution to dealing with mental clutter.

In our everyday lives, we are bombarded with information, news items, photos, e-mails, text messages and social media notifications. We’re incessantly haunted by must-do’s, ideas, plans, decisions, thoughts flitting back to past experiences, interactions with other people. We are constantly having to respond to requests.

I’ve found a baffling solution to dealing with such “mental clutter”: it consists in implementing “stateless practice”. It’s a fascinating concept that I’ve come across in one of Leo Babauta’s blog posts, which you can read here. A stateless protocol in computer programming is a communications protocol that treats each request as an independent transaction that is unrelated to any previous request (source: Wikipedia).

Leo Babauta suggests applying this concept of statelessness to our everyday lives: rather than constantly responding to a million requests, must-do’s and thoughts running around our heads, imagine they simply faded away into the ether... Imagine that no requests, must-do’s or thoughts were weighing down on your mind right now.

Statelessness involves letting go of all previous moments and instead focusing on what’s happening now: the task at hand; the activity you’re enjoying right now; the person in front of you. Imagine there’s nothing else pulling at your attention, nothing negative weighing you down, nothing draining energy out of you.

Try it! It really works!

Related posts on this blog:
22/6/2016: The Minimal To-Do List
10/5/2017: Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism

Monday, 22 May 2017

ITI Conference 2017

Conference buzz is the positive vibe you get from sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people over 2 days, to borrow an #ITIconf17 tweet by Aletta Stevens MITI. I’m sure anyone who’s just returned from the ITI conference in Cardiff, or indeed any previous ITI conference, will be able to relate to this!

This year’s ITI conference was held at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in the centre of Cardiff from 19th until 20th May 2017 and was entitled “Working our core: for a strong(er) translation and interpreting profession”. There had also been the option of attending a negotiation training workshop on the pre-conference day.

Conference buzz: sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people

Delegates had come from all over the UK and beyond. I'm based in Bristol, so travelling for me this time just involved cycling to the station and then embarking on a 45-minute train journey to Cardiff on Thursday evening.


The programme, as expected, was once again packed with talks, workshops as well as opportunities galore for networking and the exchange of profession-related experiences in an open and convivial atmosphere. It focused on issues faced by more established translators, with the second day’s agenda as varied as the first.

Throughout the conference I was constantly reminded of a comment by Cate Avery FITI in an edition of ITI Bulletin several years ago that conferences tend to open a window into current trends because of repeated references to particular topics. Cate, who incidentally was among the excellent line-up of speakers this time, had pointed out that you pick up on trends in our industry that way, perhaps without even realising it. So true!


One common theme that was running like a thread through some sessions was the relevance of collaboration as an emerging trend. It crystallised that the way forward seems to lie in collaboration in an environment where translators are working less and less in isolation or “in a bubble”, as Hugh Fraser put it in his session “Who’s afraid of feedback?”.

According to Hugh, all translators crave more feedback because it ultimately makes our work better. We should therefore embrace and welcome feedback as it’ll make our translations shine! Having said that, many of us flinch when receiving feedback since the idea of making mistakes can be scary. Hugh recommended that if you’re a feedback giver, you should regard the translator you give feedback to as a member of a team.


Collaboration was mentioned explicitly by Chris Durban FITI in her talk entitled “Scalability – headache, hurdle, Holy Grail”. Chris encouraged us to create and promote collaborative environments and to team up with others. Collaboration is key!

Collaboration obviously also is at the core of revising and editing others’ work, which was the theme of Marga Burke-Lowe MITI’s practical session on tips and tricks for improving our skills in this area. She talked us through many of the thorny issues that revisers and editors often face, either in the revision of translations or the editing of non-native writing.

The latter topic incidentally also was covered by Karen Tkaczyk FITI  in her talk entitled “A lucrative sideline: editing non-native scientific writing”. I did not attend the talk myself, but have heard that it was excellent. Check out the slides in this tweet by Rebecca Hendry MITI:


As a keen runner I'd been particularly looking forward to the conference run, which had been organised by Trinidad Clares MITI. Exercise, fresh air and some lovely sunshine were just what I needed after a very intense and stimulating first conference day! I enjoyed my run through Bute park in Cardiff in the company of fellow professionals.




Thank you to everyone involved in organising the conference for working so diligently to put together the programme, arrange the venue, find speakers, invite delegates and sort out fringe events. I realise a lot must have been going on behind the scenes! I feel that thanks are owed in particular to Anne de Freyman MITI, our chief executive Paul Wilson and Sarah Griffin-Mason MITI as well as the local organising committee, consisting of Lloyd Bingham MITI, Trinidad Clares MITI and Elvana Moore MITI.

It strikes me that the positive vibe that I referred to above will likely carry us along in our daily work lives and will help us, to quote from the conference programme, continue to improve and thrive for some time to come!


And finally, given the theme of the blog you’re just visiting, it will probably not surprise you that I was pleased to even encounter two references to minimalism at the conference:

Firstly, Marga Burke Lowe MITI mentioned in her revision/workshop session that Brian Mossop, who has written a book about revision for translators, in general advocates a minimalist approach. I published a short blog post on minimalism in revision last year here. For an in-depth look at revision for translators do check out Nikki Graham MITI’s blog post series on the topic here.


Secondly, minimalism was implicitly also referred to by Sarah Silva MITI in her brilliantly and entertainingly delivered TED talk entitled “Uncork your potential”. Sarah suggested we set ourselves an exercise in which we pare down the long list of aims for our businesses: first by listing what’s most important to us (one word per aim!) and second by picking just the three most important. It reminded me of a similar approach to to-do lists, which I described in a blog post here.

Claire Cox MITI, Alison Hindley MITI, Richard Lackey and Chloe Jones from Surrey Translation Bureau have also blogged about the event. Check out their articles here:
- A Truly Capital Event (by Claire Cox)
- Beyond Words and Back Again at the ITI Conference: 18 – 20 May 2017 (by Alison Hindley)
- Co-working (by Richard Lackey)
- ITI Conference 2017 An in-house translator's view (by Chloe Jones)

And Alexander Drechsel has produced a brilliant video on the ITI conference 2017! Watch it here:


Related posts on this blog:
27/04/2015: ITI Conference 2015
14/05/2011: ITI Conference 2011
20/05/2009: ITI Conference 2009

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Dispelling the Myths: Translation and Minimalism

“You’re a what?” When I say to people “I’m a translator”, I often receive the same funny, incredulous, but also curious looks as when I say to them, “I’m a minimalist”. Myths and misconceptions about both translation and minimalism are very widespread.

Let me set the record straight: being a minimalist does not mean that I own just 100 things. This is perhaps the most widespread misconception about minimalism. There are, in fact, very few minimalists out there who do own just 100 things.

Minimalism is about reducing excess and living mindfully.

There are so many aspects to minimalism that if I wanted to list them, I wouldn’t know where to begin. So I’ll give just a few examples: minimalism is about reducing excess in all its guises, reclaiming our time, pursuing our greatest passions, and living mindfully. Minimalism is all about efficiency, clarity and simplicity. It offers fantastic tips for decluttering our homes and offices, but it is also about “decluttering our minds”.

As for translation, note this: being a translator does not mean that I translate speech orally for parties who converse in different languages. Translation and interpreting are similar activities. However, they are also fundamentally different in that an interpreter handles the spoken word, whereas a translator works with the written word!

There are so many aspects to working as a translator and the complex matter of translation that I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to list them. To give a basic definition: translation is about deciphering and understanding the meaning behind words in both general and specialised texts, and expressing it clearly in the target language.

And no, human translators have not been replaced by computers: it is actually looking more and more likely that they never will be. Human translators are very busy people. Only humans ultimately are capable of tackling the linguistic, grammar, research or cultural challenges that typically arise in translating for the professional world.

Misconceptions about both translation and minimalism abound. But there is indeed so much more to translation and minimalism than meets the eye! Hence my motivation to blog about translation and minimalism here.

Related posts on this blog:
22/6/2016: The Minimal To-Do List
15/2/2015: 5 Common Misconceptions about Minimalists
29/9/2014: My 3 Favourite Minimalist Principles
27/1/2014: Human translators: Do we really need them?
16/9/2011: Top 10 Misconceptions about Translation and the Translation Profession

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Minimalist Blogging: Why I Don’t Have Comments

I love blogging as it gives me a chance to practise, hone and polish my writing.

But I do not allow comments. Here’s why: it would take me way too much time to think about replies to comments, let alone write them out. And by the time the first comments came in, my thoughts would already have turned to the next big thing: my next work project, my next blog post, the next task on my list.

Like you, I am a busy person, and I have therefore implemented minimalism in many areas of my life. I’ve implemented minimalism in my blogging, too: I don’t blog often, I aim to write short(er) blog posts in future, and I don’t allow comments. And I’d like to keep it that way.

Implementing minimalism in blogging

As a translator, I already spend way too much time at the computer. So I’ve taken measures to minimise my screen time. Engaging in discussion on the content of my blog posts would take me in the completely opposite direction.

Bestselling author, entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin doesn’t have comments on his blog either. In his post “Why I don’t have comments”, he explains why. You may also want to check out his post
“10 Lessons Seth Godin Can Teach You About Blogging”.

Related posts on this blog:
17/01/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today
16/03/2016: 8 Proven Ways of Minimising Screen Time
12/01/2016: 8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post
23/10/2014: Should translators blog?
06/06/2013: How wide is your web presence?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Minimalism in Introverts’ Work Environments

Funnily, one of the things that first comes to mind when I think of translators in connection with minimalism is the observation that many (but not all) of us translators are introverts: we don’t crave the same doses of external stimulation as our extrovert peers, but generally prefer to keep the arousal of external stimuli to a minimum.

Working with maximum immersion and minimal distraction

We’re okay with minimal person-to-person interaction. Although human contact is also vital to us like food and drink, we are completely fine with less social interaction and find solitude revitalising. Therefore we are usually very happy working away on long texts in front of our computers all week – with maximum immersion and minimal distraction.

Given the above, it is hardly surprising that translator is listed among the best 15 jobs for introverts in a recent article entitled “15 Best Jobs for Introverts” published on Business News Daily or in the article entitled “Twenty High Paying Jobs For Introverts” on personalityclub.com.


Links to great articles:
- Why Introverts and Extroverts Are Different: The Science (quietrev.com)
- The Minimalist Introvert: In Praise Of Going Deep (louderminds.com)
- How to Understand an Introvert, Explained by Introjis (huffingtonpost.com)
- 10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World (huffingtonpost.com)
- 10 Things That Don’t Make Sense To Introverts (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Best Jobs for Introverts (businessnewsdaily.com)
- Twenty High Paying Jobs For Introverts (personalityclub.com)

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today

Following on from my previous post on “5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today”, here are 5 things I’d do exactly the same again.

If I were starting out as a translator again today, I would…

1) … join a translators’ association early on.

I have benefitted greatly from the support, advice and sense of community from my professional association in the UK, the ITI. I have, frankly, never again felt alone as a translator ever since I joined, and many of my colleagues have become real friends. Translation certainly isn’t the lonely profession it is sometimes perceived to be!

2) … complete a business skills course for translators.

I know I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if I hadn’t participated in the ITI’s Peer Support Group in 2007 (or SUFT as it is now known). Not only did I pick up many vital skills on how to succeed as a freelance translator, I also gained the necessary confidence and self-belief that I was previously lacking.


Picking up vital skills on how to succeed as a freelance translator

3) … pinpoint an area (or areas) to translate in.

From marketing to literature to patents, the range of areas that translators work in is vast. It was therefore extremely difficult as a budding translator to make a decision on what area(s) to specialise in. A specialist area has to be something that you’re willing to learn more about – even in your free time. For me, a “side effect” of translating IT-related texts has been to take up learning computer programming. (I’m currently trying to get my head around the basics of PHP 7.)

4) …spend my hard-earned cash on as many specialised dictionaries as possible.

I still remember all the parcels with specialised dictionaries (read: books containing terminology that you cannot find for free on the internet) being delivered to my door. The slim Uexküll dictionary for patent translation alone, for example, cost a whopping 98 euros. With hindsight, though, it was money well spent.

5) …aim to become, and stay, a freelancer.

If I were starting out again today, I would probably try to find an in-house position as a translator for a while, since I’ve heard you do pick up a lot of useful knowledge to equip yourself with in your career. I would then, however, move on and become a freelancer. The self-employed lifestyle comes with many perks: complete flexibility, working hours that suit you, charging rates that you feel are appropriate, working with clients you choose etc.

With hindsight, I realise I did take some good decisions as I was starting out. I am deeply grateful for my amazing colleagues, and all the clients who I work with are lovely –  I feel really privileged!

Related posts on this blog:
17/1/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today
30/11/2015:  ITI German network Christmas party 2015
6/6/2015: ITI WRG IT & CAT Tools Day 
27/4/2015: ITI Conference 2015
30/11/2014: Looking forward to the ITI Conference 2015
30/5/2012: Tech Startup School 2012

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

5 Things I’d Do Differently If I Were Starting Out As A Translator Again Today

If I were starting out as a translator again today, I would…

1) …not give my work e-mail address to family members or friends.


Nowadays I receive only critical, strictly work-related e-mail during the day. But believe me: achieving this clear-cut separation between work and personal e-mail has taken me a very long time. Ruthless e-mail management has become vital to helping me focus properly on work projects and minimise e-mail distraction.

2) … not ignore all the fantastic features that translation software offers.

I bought Trados back in 2007 and as a translation newbie I would invest in translation software straight away again. However, I would not stop at just grasping its basic features, but endeavour to learn about every single aspect so as to benefit more from access to terminology, automation, and efficiency. As I am about to switch (from an outdated version) to the latest MemoQ release, this is something at the top of my to-do list!

3) …not accept translations that I feel uncomfortable with.

For newcomers to the profession it is natural to also take on projects they’re not completely familiar with. It is, after all, a way of putting out your feelers and assessing which subject areas are up your street and which aren’t. Speaking for myself, though, I would not accept any texts if it were crystal-clear beforehand that I was not happy with the subject, or just because somebody was desperate to place a project.



We should consciously enjoy work-free time!

4) …not worry during slack periods, but enjoy time off!

I have been a translator for 10 years, so slack periods with no assignments in my order book have long been a thing of the past. Clearly, marketing is very important. However, if I were a fledgling translator again, I would not engage in marketing as frantically as I used to during slack periods. Nor would I worry about whether new projects would be landing on my desk again soon. Instead, I would consciously enjoy work-free time!


5) …not start a translation blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading other translators’ blogs because I can learn so much from them and because they always tend to be very well-written! Also, I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from blogging myself. However, I’ve come round to the belief that maintaining a blog on translation-related issues isn’t essential to building a successful translation business. There are other, less time-consuming (more minimal!) ways to achieve this.

Given my blog theme, it is hardly surprising that the thinking behind this post is based largely on minimalist aims: the minimisation of screen time; less time spent on tasks; as well as more efficiency and joy!


Related posts on this blog:
7/2/2017: 5 Things I’d Do Exactly the Same If I Were Starting Out as a Translator Again Today
16/3/2016: 8 Proven Ways of Minimising Screen Time
12/1/2016: 8 Essential elements of a perfect blog post
11/2/2015: Working from home – and getting things done!
12/10/2014: Should translators blog?