Let’s celebrate fat Tuesday!

Thus far, I’m performing particularly poorly on one of my new year’s resolutions – to create more “involved” blog entries. And by that, I mean that since that blog post, I haven’t succeeded in posting a single blog, in-depth or otherwise.

There are excuses – I’ve been ultra busy and I was pretty unwell for a couple of weeks. I do have ideas for blogs on Italian and English law, but currently, they’re scribbled into various notepads or clogging up memory in constantly open Chrome tabs. I’m excited to write them and I will – I just need to make enough time to be able to do them justice.

In the meantime, here’s a warmup entry – a less serious but highly topical comparison for you to digest alongside your pancakes today, be they fluffy, stacked and bacon-topped USA-style or thin, flexible and soaked in sugary lemon juice as we love here in the UK.

The English terms

I’m greedy and I enjoy cultural traditions – especially when they involve enjoying delicious treats – but I’m not a religious person in any way, so to me, today has always been “Pancake Day”. The more traditional, Christian name for the day would be “Shrove Tuesday” – shrove meaning, “Shrove-tide, or the merrymaking connected therewith” and deriving from “shrive”, a verb meaning “to confess”. The popular celebration of this day – concocting meals and sweets from flour, eggs and sugar – comes from the tradition of using up everything in the house before the Lent fast (being greedy, I participate in the pancakes and not the fast).

The Latinate versions

Entertainingly, the name for this day “on the continent” is semantically rather than etymologically the same, with “martedì grasso” (Italian) or “mardi gras” (French) basically meaning “fat Tuesday”. But when my British language-student peers and I treated our Italian friends to pancakes on this day several years ago, they were thoroughly impressed with a) our version of the celebration and b) our version of “crepes”! In Italy, they do things rather differently.

Carnevale

It’s the weekend prior to Pancake Tuesday / Shrove Day into which people pour the celebrations and this takes place all across Italy, in various forms. Venice is the famous one, with its iconic masks and the accompanying competitions, dinners and balls. The earliest evidence of this celebration comes from 1094, however, it’s said to have originated from much earlier pagan rituals. The masks came slightly later, but (presumably as they were worn for many reasons other than carnival, including political reasons) grew to such importance than the “mascarero” profession achieved special status, with a “statuto” to regulate it: effectively, the mask makers joined a guild and abided by its rules.

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During my year abroad I stumbled upon carnevale in Capaccio Paestum, visiting the town and its ancient ruins long after I thought the celebrations were over. This year it has been running since the “Miss Carnevale” competition on 24th February and won’t finish until after Martedì Grasso, with “carri allegorici” taking part in parades in each of the several “contrade” of the town of Capaccio Paestum during that time. There are usually events such as karaoke and talent shows and that famous and particularly Campanian figure, Pulcinella, commonly used in social protest, is bound to feature highly.

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Carnevale Capaccio Paestum, 2013

It’s been brief but I had to leave a little snippet of something while my (more sophisticated?!) notes build higher than my output. Enjoy this little bit of trivia and I’ll see you soon with something you can get your teeth into… so to speak.

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2018 vs 2019: reflection on a year of self-employment

laptop-1478611_1280It’s just over a year since I began freelancing and, with it being a new year too, it’s time to reflect. Between moving, learning the very basics of self-employment and various other challenges, this year-and-a-bit has presented some huge learning curves. And now I have a clearer idea of what I am aiming for next. Let’s pit 2018 against the future.

CPD

This relates to growth, both professional and financial: you can’t have one without the other. CPD is also a much-needed social boost when you work alone.

2018: I faced those facts and I spent. I went to careers events, I participated in workshops and online training, and I invested time (which is money!) in reading.
2019: The major CPD event I’m looking forward to this year is the B+P conference. Some engaging talks (that are directly relevant to me) have already been announced and it’s in a beautiful city in my favourite country this year. I’d also like to get some more intensive law and business research/learning/tuition in both ST and TT.
This will allow me to churn out some more writing this year: something more in-depth, for my blog and for other publications.

Productivity

Between a full melt-down almost a year ago (blackout followed by having to entirely uninstall and reinstall Windows…) and how slow it has been trying to run Windows on an 8-year-old MacBook Air, my productivity this year has not been at its best. The kind of software and size of files with which I work (i.e. SDL Trados Studio) require up-to-date, fast hardware.

2018: Admittedly, it took me longer than it should have, but I did finally face facts here too and my new MacBook Pro is making my working life far less stressful.
2019: I won’t leave it so long before making a financial commitment of this kind.
Get a website! Not having to conduct direct marketing could well improve productivity and should help me find direct clients – something else I want to aim towards.

Office set-up and ergonomics

I have felt first-hand how important a proper set-up is. Despite my general fitness and regular work on core and posture, not having a good set up has given me tight, sore shoulders, played havoc with my wrists and hands and worsened my runners’ knee.

2018: Some of this I sorted by investing in equipment (an external keyboard and tracker pad, a wrist rest) and by using a footstool and monitor.
2019: I’m going to get a proper desk chair and sort out my footstool situation (because a cushion on a dining room chair isn’t supportive enough and neither is a low footstool atop a huge plastic box).

Routine

Being able to work from anywhere is a major benefit of working for myself, but not always. It can cause more stress than it solves problems. Lousy, on-the-go internet connection or journey delays can impact deadlines; when working from my parents’ house, rather than turning down work, I often took small jobs which sometimes turned into big ones – those couple of hours set aside turned into several, eating into family time.

I have also discovered that the possibility of flexibility shouldn’t mean renouncing routine altogether. My work doesn’t always lend itself to routine – jobs can arrive at any time of day and can be any sort of size. Yet, while I appreciate being able to do other things in the middle of the day (if I’m not concentrating or don’t have much on), that works better as the exception than the norm.

2018: I gradually came to the above realisations regarding routine and managed to strike a balance with variety: I edit, translate, write, proofread, diversification that has made my job more enjoyable. The resulting communication with a variety of PMs, editors and collaborators has been another social opportunity (even if it was a virtual one).
2019: Working from elsewhere should be the exception and should be clearly separated from time off: no more accepting little jobs because I can “probably squeeze them in” around family time.

Personal life

We all know the importance of a good work-life balance, I won’t repeat the obvious here. I’m pretty good, generally, at this. But, related to the fear of spending is the fear of taking holidays. I ploughed on throughout the year without taking more than a long weekend off… and often doing the odd job during those breaks.

2018: I did see my friends and family a decent amount. But in November, I went to Australia for three weeks. It made me all the more productive when I got back and, although there’ll be a month or two where I see less coming into my bank, I work out my (estimated) salary by the number of days worked annually and my budget in accordance with that.
I got the GFA time I was aiming for at the Edinburgh marathon!
2019: I need to remember that I forward plan my finances so that I can afford a decent amount of time off work.
I’ll be running my third marathon in London at the end of April, which I hope to follow up with another gruelling challenge – a middle-distance triathlon.

In large part, my lessons learned come down to investment: in my various former jobs, my colleagues and I often found it easy to complain about the lack of spending on resources – human or otherwise. Working for myself, it has instead been difficult to accept that some of my hard-earned cash needs to go back into the business or spent on a break.

There’s a lot to reflect on from 2018 – more than I can include here – and a lot to look forward to in 2019. Keep checking in to see how it’s all progressing and, of course, let me know your own goals too.

Two months in the life of Kirsty

The long-awaited catch-up – here’s what I’ve been up to. In August, I wrote about how quiet a month it was, due to the majority of my clients being in Italy. I certainly made up for that in September and October in work, outside of work and parallel to work. I’ll lay down the disclaimer now: this whole blog is something of a boast. But it’s good to recognise your own achievements, right?

A bucket load of CPD

I began September helping my clients catch up on their August backlog, but I reserved time in the last two weeks for the most extensive CPD I’ve done thus far. David Hutchins’ course on the English legal system, contract law and civil liability is a 16-hour distance learning course, which does what it says on the tin, really.

Having worked in an Italian law firm for a period of time, I felt my English legal system knowledge was most lacking and that this would give me a better grounding in the English language that lawyers really use. It’s a foundation upon which to build rather than a be-all-and-end-all solution and it would be great to do a similar course on the Italian legal system (all suggestions welcome). But those 16 hours were well worth it and I’m proud to have given up the time to focus on the course… achievement #1 ✅!

Working for myself is a huge benefit in terms of flexibility and that allowed me not only to take the course but to do so from my parents’ house and from London. I spent those two weeks between the two places, the first to spend some quality time with my family (including two-year-old nephew) and the second to accompany my boyfriend (who was on a training course himself) and catch up with London-based friends.

That also conveniently placed me in London for some further CPD (achievement #2 ✅), an afternoon of talks on the UK’s Indigenous Languages at Europe House. The event was hosted by the European Commission Representation in London and was absolutely fascinating, a wonderful event – you’ll have to read more about that in the next issue of the ITI Bulletin, though!

Getting published

And that is precisely down to (what I consider to be) achievement #3 ✅: in October I’ve managed to squeeze a lot of writing into my busy schedule and by the release of the next issue of the ITI Bulletin I will have had three articles posted in the magazine. They have largely revolved around events so far, but I love writing so much it’s a pleasure to be published in a revered industry publication. I see it as a stepping stone to future in-depth pieces, so it’s an achievement that opens the door to future achievements!

Charitable translations

In the meantime, I also undertook my first pro bono job for Translators Without Borders. In my experience, it’s not often that Italian-English pops up as a language direction for TWB, but I was thrilled to be involved in translating an important dossier for Terres des Hommes, a charity that strives to protect children across the globe, released for International Day of the Girl Child. Unfortunately, I can only seem to find the Italian version online, but I’ll update this as and when I uncover the English. We’re up to #4 ✅!

Even more CPD

That took me up to achievement #5 ✅ on the last weekend of September. The ITI Scottish Network’s Autumn Workshop was held in Edinburgh and I whizzed up to it overnight on the Caledonian Sleeper (not so much an achievement but it was a new and exciting experience!).

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The workshop focused on the ITI’s Code of Conduct, why it’s important for us to know and understand it and how we can quote it if we ever find ourselves in the unfortunate position to need to defend ourselves. Again, if you check out the next edition of the Bulletin, you’ll be able to read more on that and I’d strongly recommend doing so – it was one of the most insightful workshops I’ve been to.

Keeping up the pace with personal achievements

That’s how I went storming into October and it didn’t stop there. If you know me or have ever read this blog, it may have come to your attention that I love cycling. Last month I had the opportunity to undertake a course that would let me share that love with others: British Cycling’s HSBC Breeze initiative.

This is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in. The premise is that, by committing to leading a minimum of eight women-only rides a year, cycling ladies can undertake a Level One Ride Leaders’ Course gratis. The idea behind the premise is to carry cycling away from its current status as a male-dominated sport, which largely stems from a lack of confidence in many women to get out on the roads (and that isn’t helped by the lack of suitable rides available at mostly-male cycling clubs).

To qualify, I also had to take a First Aid Course – which I did, by driving three hours to Glasgow and back in a day, the weekend after the course in Edinburgh! Knackering as that may have been, I passed the course, passed the first aid and have lead one ride already. Taking me to #5, 6 and 7 ✅✅✅! I’m really excited to lead more rides and would really encourage ladies to get in touch to find out how they get involved.

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Some more work news

October also brought me my first sizeable job from a direct client (found, of course, through a friend of a friend, proving it’s worth making a point of helping others when they ask). I can’t say much about the project just yet, but it was exceedingly rewarding to be working on something so interesting and important in equal measures. #8 ✅!

And now?

Well, I deserve a break, don’t you think? I’m off to Australia for three weeks, my first holiday since self-employment and my chance to grab some much-needed rest (and sunshine). I’m not ashamed to show off a little bit as it’s been a big year! Anyway, we never stop learning (and we can’t stop earning), so December and the New Year hold much more intense CPD, hopefully even further business growth and definitely lots of chilly cycles as a Breeze Champion!

Busy, Busy!

It’s been a crazy month. Last month’s blog was – effectively – about how quiet August was for an Italian to English translator. This month’s isn’t even a blog: between a great deal of work and a whole load of CPD (a 16-hour course and two workshops), I’ve been rather lacking the time to focus on the blog that I’d like to publish next.

Hence, this is something of a placeholder. But all this learning and professional development has set my mind spinning. The ideas are running wild, so stay tuned – the coming blogs are simmering away.

Ferragosto = Cucumber Time for translators?

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koconini [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

August is done and dusted and it was an experience, rounded off with a trip to Amsterdam, before which I learned that the Dutch refers to the “quiet period in summer when little happens” as “cucumber time”. Beautiful!

Dutch is not one one of my languages, but Italian is and if any country does cucumber time well, it’s Italy. I anticipated a fall in requests due to the Italian holiday Ferragosto and the tendency for individuals and even businesses to take extra time off around its celebration on 15th August. I did not anticipate the extent of that fall. This did not necessarily harm business – I took the opportunity to focus on some editing work for a British client (as well as the time to work some slightly shorter days in the absence of a holiday since last December) – but it showed me August is a potentially dangerous month for a translator of Italian.

So I have decided to explore first the history of Ferragosto, then how it’s celebrated today and, finally, some ideas on how it affects work in general but, specifically, self-employed professionals.

What is Ferragosto?

It has a perplexing history, rooted in autocracy. Its origins are in Feriae Augusti (“Augustus’ rest”), a holiday established by Roman Emperor Augustus, added to a series of existing festivals that celebrated the end of harvest. By linking this series of holidays together, a substantial rest period was created – perhaps why the holiday occupies more than just 15th August today.

It is said that, on this day, workers well-wished their bosses and received a tip in return. The first coining of Buon Ferragosto (“have a good Ferragosto!”) is said to have been around 2000 years ago, but it was in the 1930s that many of the traditions we saw today really took off – at the behest of a fascist government. Workers were given the days off around the national holiday and guaranteed reduced fares on trains (the so-called treni popolari), giving many the opportunity to see the magnificence of Italy beyond their small towns and villages.

From it’s Roman origins to the Fascist popularisation of the national holiday, the way Ferragosto is celebrated today does have something to do with those leaders’ self-promotion. Regardless, this beneficial summer break has held impressively strong throughout history.

How is it celebrated today?

To answer briefly, with a wonderful range of traditions both ancient and modern. Here are some more detailed examples – beyond beach trips with family and friends and packed lunches.

The Palio in Tuscan city Siena takes place on 16th August. The city is divided into 17 contrade, or neighbourhoods, and there are 10 places up for grabs in a horse race that consists of three clockwise loops of the iconic oval-shaped main square. The Palio refers to the cloth banner awarded to the horse – jockey or no – that comes first. When visiting at the ripe old age of eight, I was told – after the race – that most locals watch (sensibly) on their TVs. If you’re ever in Siena on 16th August and you don’t want to end up with your lightheaded mother in a laundrette-turned-first-aid-room, I suggest you do the same!

Another alternative and – I imagine – hauntingly beautiful way to experience Ferragosto is by attending a concert in the caves of Castellana, Bari, on 14th or 15th August.

A far newer tradition, but one that is nonetheless brilliant, is in Campagna (in the Salerno province), where they host what is essentially a giant water fight every Sunday in August.

Food, of course, plays a huge role in any Italian festivities. And, with this particular holiday having originated as a celebration of the end of Roman harvests, you’re guaranteed to find at least one sagra to attend anywhere you might be in Italy at this time of year.

But what about business?

Someone once told me Italians just love to create an extended break out of one day’s holiday – they call it a “ponte” or “bridge” (essentially a long weekend). Knowing this, underestimating how quiet August would be was perhaps a little silly.

But really, August is a quiet month everywhere. Even in other countries, school holidays tend to fall around August and people take their holidays accordingly. And if everyone is doing so at slightly different times, it takes longer to get things done – if ‘Mary’ needs a signature from ‘Barry’ to be able to send X.doc to the translator, but Barry is on holiday, even if he signs it as soon as he gets back, it’s a week later. And by that point, Mary is off for two weeks so in total it’s three before anything gets done.

So is Italy’s concentration of that time off into the same week or two actually a better solution? Could it be better for an economy as a whole?

A difficult question for me to answer, as interesting as it is. But it looks like mid-August might be a good time for me to take a little break myself, in years to come. And, with the Pope having declared 15th August the official day for celebrating the Assumption of Mary, it’s also a national holiday in Spain, certain parts of Switzerland and many other Catholic countries, meaning this is quite possibly applicable to those working in other language combinations, too. It’s certainly worth knowing when holidays occur in the relevant countries – I’ve added the Italian holiday calendar to my iCal, for this very reason.

By Thursday (30th August), my requests had already returned to something of a peak. So bring on this week: looks like I’ll be busy if Italy is about to play catch up.

How to beat the solitary life of an independent translator

Image-1.jpgIt seems like a long old time ago now, but as I was finishing my Master’s degree I wrote Life After Classes, a piece discussing how I organised the odd translation job and how I might organise myself if I began work independently full time. It’s pertinent to anyone who decides to go it alone, perhaps more so in a profession such as translation where, nine times out of ten, it’s just us and our computers.

For me it’s more pertinent than ever: I’m fairly new to this as a full-time gig, I began as I moved to a new city where I knew very few people and I’m naturally quite a sociable person (I dispute the idea that translators are all introverts who shy away from human contact!). Giving up the social aspect of working in an office in return for this level of flexibility wasn’t an easy decision. It’s taken me some time to get to grips with the solitude. But I’m certainly getting there and here are my key hacks.

Joining professional societies

Attending the ATC Conference and becoming an ITI member were the first two career investments I made. Joining ITI ScotNet was the second. There are many levels of importance to these ventures. Event discount is huge – I’ve missed a number of the big ones, but ITI membership gave me discounted attendance at the ATC Conference as I was just (thinking about) entering self-employment. The Conference had three main benefits:

    1. Not knowing how much work was out there, I was surprised by how many companies told me they were looking for my language combinations.
    2. I met many prospective clients.
    3. It was also a great day out, a welcome break from sitting at a desk and made me feel a part of a whole.

As a smaller network, ScotNet puts me in constant contact with others in the trade, presents new work opportunities and provides a pool of willing advisors for anything translation-related. In addition, it means more local, more regular and more affordable events. Then there’s CAT tool discount – need I say more?

Joining clubs socially

Or perhaps semi-competitively, in my case. I love running, I love cycling, I love waterpolo. I don’t love sacrificing those things for work or other social events. And seeing as there are so few hours in the day, I combine my hobbies with meeting people. I have joined a running club, attend the odd ride with a fantastic women’s cycling group and I’m trying to help establish a seniors’ waterpolo club in Aberdeen. I’ve gone from knowing a handful of my boyfriend’s friends and colleagues to knowing several people that I see regularly both within and outwith the clubs where I met them.

Co-working

This was one of the topics I mentioned in Life After Classes what seems like aeons ago. I’ve finally made it a reality, after discovering Space2b – a brilliant initiative that welcomes professionals like me, companies requiring meeting space, charities and exercise classes alike, for a reasonable price and a number of benefits (flexibility and tea and coffee being my favourites!). It’s still low on attendance for the time being and I have yet to settle into an ideal timetable myself, but leaving the house and going somewhere will continue to formalise my working hours further, making me more productive while I’m at the computer and allowing me to relax more at home. It also means I bump into people, for a little break from myself.

Getting a dog

Ok so we haven’t done this one yet – but I’d like to! BorrowMyDoggy is on the cards… but hopefully we’ll reach a point where we spend fewer weekends away and have a place that allows pets!

I’ve always tried to get as involved as I can, wherever I am or whatever I’m doing but there’s no right answer. I’m always keen to hear how others break the WFH mould so please do comment below if you have further tips and hacks to share!

On Law Tech and translation technologies: can the integration “thereof” make us better?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is Law Tech?

Succinctly put by LegalVision, Law Tech “is the buzzword used to describe how technology is assisting the legal profession”. Wikipedia will tell you it supports every aspect of the industry from practice management and accounting to document storage and legal research. The term, more recently, also covers systems that allow clients to connect with lawyers more easily or for clients to avoid the need for lawyers at all.

That last point sounds similar, doesn’t it? The grand MT debate ring a bell? In fact, much of what Law Tech entails lines up with the world of translation: project management tools help us coordinate (multiple) projects, CAT tools store and allow us to recycle translations, searching linguistic corpora echoes the purpose of legal research systems. But to what extent do – or rather, could – the tools in each realm tie in with each other and what does it mean for legal translators?

Good, bad or ugly?

The first and most obvious connection between Law Tech and translation technology is the controversy that surrounds both – scratch at the surface of either and you’ll soon be tangled in a web of pros and cons.

Speed is usually of the essence in law: client cases usually require urgent attention, due to the nature either of the case or of the client. So, of course, a tool that eliminates lengthy and/or menial tasks has its upsides. Hand-in-hand with this goes the idea that technology frees up time for the experts to use their – well – expertise to its maximum potential: the less time one has to spend on formatting or account management, for example, the more time there is to explore the intricacies of each individual case – the details for which a lawyer has been trained to spot or even the human aspect.

Another argument in favour of Law Tech is that it can put clients in direct contact with their lawyers sooner than if they had to, say, wait for an appointment. And, linked to that, is the idea that a client can receive automated help, meaning human resources aren’t being used where they’re not strictly needed, reserving them for where they strictly are.

Of course, none of this is without its reservations. “A man is only as good as his tools” – rubbish in, rubbish out! Freshfields sees smart contracts in a similar light: “Code can never be wrong per se, but it can have unintended consequences.” There’s always room for error where the human aspect – demeanour, body language, the way things are presented, omissions – are so important. Can a computer be as good as a human at deciphering whether, for example, a client is omitting vital info? Exaggerating something else? And what good is a computer if it’s then making calculations based on false or erroneous information?

There’s long been a discourse on whether plain writing in law is a positive or a negative thing. Making law something everyone can understand sounds great but can lead to a loss of precision and some argue it make the general public feel they can understand it but, when put to the test, they’ve missed some vital points (e.g. legal terms with non-legal meaning understood in their everyday sense). I’m not necessarily against plain writing but the cons have their bearing and I see the idea that Law Tech removes the need for a lawyer as an extension of that argument.

How does Law Tech compare to translation technology?

How doesn’t it? CAT tools and their advancements are the cruces of so many debates that match those concerning Law Tech: are they removing the need for translators? Do they (negatively) affect our income? And MT is getting more intelligent by the day: it’s created a new role (post-MT editing) and become good enough that some clients feel they can do away with the translator entirely. But it’s not good enough yet to handle subtlety and nuance.

CAT tools, though, have improved our output by making us more consistent and increasing our efficiency and productivity. Portals allow us to communicate faster and more effectively with our clients. The list goes on.

At the end of the day, the advancements are happening whether we like it or not and we’d do better to get on board and steer them in the right direction rather than get left on the platform. For now, anyway, it is sensible to see the tools as a supplement rather than a replacement.

And so…?

Well, when it comes to legal translation, I’m surprised a crossover between the two fields of technology doesn’t currently exist – judging from my experience and from what I’ve been (un)able to find online so far, anyway. I thoroughly welcome any suggestions to the contrary.

I haven’t had much of a chance to really look into it yet and it would be interesting to play around with some of the Law Tech tools available – especially in drafting and in research – to see exactly where that potential for such a crossover lies. But I’m certain that potential there is, particularly in the area of research.

I’ve been quiet again lately! But here’s why

Training! Approaching a year ago I blogged about my sporting interests: a large cycling trip around Scotland and my proud achievements in running Brighton marathon and competing in a standard-distance triathlon. Well, I’ve been at it again.

On 27th May 2018 I demonstrated that I am indeed mad. I attempted to run 26.2 miles along the coast just south of Edinburgh in under three hours and 45 minutes. For those unacquainted with marathon chatter, that time would put me in the “Good for Age” category, thus improving my chances of getting into the London Marathon 2019 (because three time’s a charm. Or something).

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The formula for preparing for something like this, regardless of the time you aim for, is transferable. It doesn’t immediately strike the eye as being comparable to our work as translators. But here’s a selection of reasons why I think it is.

Time Management

I’ve written before about time management – it’s a fundamental skill, especially for those working for themselves. At the height of my training, I ran up to 38 miles a week – not including the cycling, swimming, gyming, physio and sports massages with which I supplemented my training.

Four weeks in a row I had guests come to visit in Aberdeen, adding cleaning and sheet and towel changing to my weekly workload, as well as getting up early on the weekends (so as not to leave them alone for too long as I went for my long Saturday morning run.) Do you see the similarity yet? Only by being organised could I fit all this in.

Pacing yourself

Time management and prioritising came into their own while I had all this on. But there was no rushing to the finish line either – in training, on race day or with my work. As it turns out, pushing myself too hard meant injury. Working too hard can be just as injurious, bringing unnecessary stress.

I had my heart set on that sub 3.45 goal but it was vital to know when knocking out another run might do more harm than good. Knowing when to turn work down (say, because I’m already at capacity that week) is comparable: I might make more money but the overload could impact the quality of my work.

Dedication & Willpower

Still, often the more you need to do the more you can get done. “I’m dedicated,” is a cliche for a reason. I love my work but I also love what I do on my own time and I’m thoroughly dedicated to both: I can’t train effectively without being dedicated, I can’t do a good job without being committed.

But for all the dedication and love in the world, work isn’t always easy and neither is training. We all receive jobs we don’t want to do or jobs that seem easy at first but hide complex concepts or poor source language composition. Meanwhile, on race day… let’s just say 21-22 miles is a dark place to be. But willpower is knowing that, as hard as it may be, I can get through it.

Sense of achievement

I was chatting about the marathon with my boyfriend this morning and he came out with these wise words: “When we set our minds to things, it becomes just another task. But when we complete that task, other people see it as an achievement. We need to let ourselves recognise our successes.” (He completed an Iron Man last year, so perhaps my marathon pales into insignificance by comparison.) He’s right, and it applies to the good work that the self-employed do every day.

It’s important to find your own sense of achievement. In our industry, it’s unfortunately rare to get meaningful feedback[1] but we shouldn’t underestimate the implied feedback of returning clients. Marathon-wise, I think not just of crossing the finish line but of each training run I completed or perhaps how much I raised for charity. It’s about recognising how hard I’ve worked to earn my medal or money.

Looking forward

Legs and brains both burn out from overstraining them and it’s important to factor in recovery time. But while a 20,000-word (or larger!) translation might occupy my calendar until deadline day, I need to have something lined up for when it draws to a close. Likewise, I’m not giving up my hobby because the marathon’s over – I’ve got my eyes set on the next events (some shorter distances and a middle-distance triathlon).

I’ve been looking ahead a lot – perhaps the buzz of last week’s achievement gave me an extra push. I have detailed plans for this blog and for updating myself with CPD. I have plotted supplementary reading to help both. Stay tuned to hear about the impact of technology on law and the law in translation. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how your interests tie in with your work.

[1] An observation, not necessarily a criticism. Currently, I work mostly for agencies. Sometimes the text type wouldn’t warrant it, but some companies simply don’t have the resources to provide feedback on every project. Many do and, although the final product is often superior for it, that’s a discussion topic for another day.

 

When Twenty-Six Thousand Good Writing Skills Invade Your Mind

writing-pencil-pen-red-paper-lip-1363790-pxhere.comI mentioned in my last post that I’ve taken on a substantial amount of editing work recently. Discussing this with a friend and former colleague – who I revere in terms of monolingual and bilingual editing – he referred me to an article in the New Yorker.

“Stinkbugs,” he said, “In the latest edition, is the kind of excellent writing I aspire to.” I thoroughly believed him – I have full confidence in his judgment of skill and entertainment – but I was convinced the stinkbug was a metaphor and the piece an allegory. I understood the stinkbug to represent what exemplary writing should be. Or something. If I’d known the stinkbug was an “actual thing”, I might have seen how wrong I was from the outset. But sheltered away from the beastie, here in the UK, I had no idea.

The article is indeed about stinkbugs. Specifically the brown marmorated variety, accidentally imported into the US from Asia and now wreaking havoc on agricultural produce and homes alike.

Astonishing, yes. Interesting, of course. Relevant, highly. But my friend’s focus was on the writing style – and too right. This topic might seem uninteresting, irrelevant, too scientific or otherwise inaccessible to many. It’s also a long piece. Really long.

Yet it’s engaging and I wanted to read the whole thing… that can only mean it’s written well. How?

It’s humorous: despite the ‘truth universally acknowledged’ that the more you explain a joke the funnier it gets, I won’t dissect them too much. But references to a “color [sic] palette as elaborate as Benjamin Moore’s” or juxtaposing “millionaires, feudal lords, and goats” have a high propensity to making the reader feel included – both by making them chuckle and by contributing to my next point.

It’s down to earth: these jokes are complimented by the use of modern turns of phrase (the interjection of “or something”, for example) to create an accessible and familiar language. I mean, you’re not going to keep reading if you have to put unwarranted effort into doing so, are you?

It’s factual: it’s absolutely stuffed full of research and anecdotes alike; although – however refreshing the lack of links is in this SEO-fuelled world – if you did need to use its science for whatever reason, you’d have to find it yourself. I personally learnt new terms (‘yellow jacket’ n. and ‘flashing’ n., ‘to overwinter’ v.); of course, this would be less pertinent to its US target audience.

It’s ironic: a few ridiculously long lists aren’t there out of laziness or a lack of awareness for style but to effectively emphasise the extent to which stinkbugs constitute a potentially catastrophic threat. This is closely related to humour, in that it can get its message across without being too aggressive (i.e. without putting the fear of God into you).

Most importantly, it’s none of these: not to an excessive extent, anyway. In other words, it’s not trying too hard. And if you get all the way to the end, it of course has a deeper meaning that encourages you to reflect.

This piece is, quite frankly, amazing. You’d expect that from a writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing; but it’s certainly a style we can all aspire to.

Branching Out

branch

This is just going to be a quick and short one because, fortunately, I have been super, super busy. That’s so good to be able to say now I’m working for myself, even if at times can be somewhat stressful.

One element of this is pretty exciting. A few weeks ago I spent three days working with a company who trained me up in their systems so I can edit for them. At first I thought it would be a great opportunity for two reasons: the first that it would be a regular and reliable source of income, the second that it would break up the translation day. I love translation, it’s why I’m doing it. But, all translators will acknowledge that sometimes – especially if what we are working on is dry – it can be a little mundane.

I have, however, discovered further benefits to this monolingual editing work. There’s the social side: I spent a few days out of the house – always good – and I am now regularly in contact with a group of colleagues. Although remote, there’s still the chance to have a quick chat – small talk as well as work.

Then there’s the language side: I’ve noticed within just a month’s work how much more acute my sense of good writing is. I find myself much more able to look at a piece of writing as a whole, see what fits where, what flows into what, what the writer’s style is (coherence). This means that in my translation work I am analysing, reading, searching for meaning beyond the words or the sentences, to make the translation fit together in the same way as the original.

I will never rewrite a piece I am translating in the same way that, at times, I am required to for the work I’m editing – it’s a different job and I’m fully aware of the fact. But knowing it doesn’t flow (it happens!) helps as much as knowing how it does! A proper oversight of the piece I’m translating allows me to be faithful to the style of the person who has written it as well as to what they want to say; to their ideas and how they link them together. It’s all fundamental in understanding the original and then transmitting it into my own mother tongue.

Part of me worried that I was fleeing the translation battlefield before the fight had even begun by taking this work. How did I intend to expand my experience as a translator if I was spending a number of hours weekly on monolingual toils? But each time I switch from mono- to bilingual task, I see how it’s helping me to grow in my career.

On a side note it is also potentially opening up SEO to me and my portfolio, which may be the perfect complement to the translation work I’m already doing in the marketing sector. I mean really – other than occasionally having a lot to do (and is that a bad thing anyway?) – I’m struggling to see the downside to branching out.