Category Archives: Translation and Interpretation

Managing your workload – it can be stressful – the translator’s daily problem?

In the last blog I looked at the minimum and maximum amount of work a translator can put in before it causes problems for their work. This time we’re going to look at some of the other work-related problems translators can face.

When you’re starting off – as well as setting your rates and making new contacts – the very real possibility of work drying up is often a fear. Even if you’re successful and established there are always irrational worries about the next client not emerging (or paying!), the next project not being locked in, etc. When you’re worried about moving onto the next task – say there is a delay if you’re starting off a project – then sometimes self-doubt creeps in. The risk of indulging this might compromise the quality of any work you do then get. This then further perpetuates the self-doubt issue, and when you’re doing something for the first time you don’t need that clouding your judgement!

This in turn can contribute to ill health (as can doing too much work – see the last blog), and/or taking on too much work in an attempt to counteract previous issues. Taking on too much work can contribute to longer working hours, or a feeling of spreading yourself thinly. Rather than focusing on single tasks, a large workload can result in incremental progress while multi-tasking. Tiredness can result in questioning your ability, wondering if you actually did your job correctly, meaning you double check and take even more time. Take five and realise that you will sort things out!

These are very real problems that many people experience at work. Managing your workload and being confident in your ability to do the job are aspects of work that you aren’t always trained for, and need looked into where possible. I know – or at least I think I know, based on my contacts in the translating and interpreting worlds – that most people don’t have these issues, but there are many who do and, for what it’s worth, I’d suggest that the most important thing in these circumstances is to remind yourself not just of all your successes, but also of how well trained and competent you are and how your skills are in great demand. As I’ve written here on many occasions in the past, translation and interpretation are vital skills, needed by businesses worldwide. That means that people like you can make a successful career and a good living.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects

Translators or interpreters – what do they do?

This is a question that often perplexes people who call upon our services. They ask for interpretation, when they mean translation – and vice versa.

To be fair, there is no reason why anyone who doesn’t work in our industry should know. As far as our clients are concerned, they want one language changed to another – and that’s it.   There is a danger that companies like ours get snooty about this sort of thing, and it’s important that we don’t.

So…. What is the difference between interpreters and translators?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (whose origins are being commemorated in an exhibition, as detailed here) offers a simple definition of an “interpreter” as a “person who translates the words that someone is speaking into a different language.” So interpreters translate. Or do they interpret? It’s hardly surprising people get confused.

The difference is that interpreters work to interpret the spoken word, while translators translate printed copy. Or, to put it another way, if it’s written down it’s then translated, but if it’s said then it’s interpreted.

So far, so good, however (and I appreciate I may be accused of making a fine distinction), here is a fuller definition of an “interpreter” (again from our friends at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary):

Full Definition of interpreter

1 : one that interprets: as
a : one who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages
b : one who explains or expounds

Part ‘a’ is exactly what I’ve written above. Part ‘b’ though is a more general description and can be regarded in much the same way that a talented musician ‘interprets’ the work of a great composer. The notes in the original manuscript don’t vary, but how they are interpreted does. In this context, “One who explains or expounds” is an excellent description. The nuances and understanding of the precise definition of words with seemingly similar meanings become very important. An example might be the difference between the English words “garrulous” and “loquacious”.

This applies equally to “translation.” While the definition may mean taking written content in one language and changing it to another, this is not a literal thing that a machine or program can (yet) do to the same level of sophistication and understanding as a talented human. Machines don’t really care, but a good human translator does – or certainly should. Words and phrases have multiple interpretations and idioms or “sayings” rarely translate well when taken literally. This article, covering the very basics of what translation can do for you, states that “translators not only translate, but they also teach sometimes.”

The good translator (or indeed interpreter) “interprets” the original language and provides the light and shade and, dare we say it, grace notes that transform a precise and well-expressed translation to a piece of quality work that not only conveys meaning but also expression and “mood music.” It’s a rare skill, whether done orally as an interpreter or in writing as a translator.

Rosetta Stone, Global Connects