Showing posts with label personal development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal development. Show all posts

Friday, 5 August 2016

3 simple language learning tips for shy people

Most researchers advocate that language involves the communication of meaning. It was this idea that brought forward the communicative approach in language learning. This approach gives special emphasis to communication and speaking in the foreign language, ideally from day one. Some of us, though, are shy. Some of us are not comfortable talking with people we don’t know, let alone talking with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and using another language for that matter.

So what do we do? Here are a few tips for shy language lovers:

#1 BEING SHY IS OKAY

First of all, we should bear in mind that being shy is not something intrinsically bad. This is who we are and we are not obliged to change if we don’t want to in order to conform to a cultural ideal. Besides, while some language learners are extroverts and talkative, and are learning new languages with the aim of communicating with people, others, more scholarly types, learn a language in order to focus more on literature or translation. Each motive is legitimate in its own right.

#2 PUSHING YOURSELF WILL ONLY MAKE MATTERS WORSE

I don’t think it’s a good idea to push ourselves to speak in a new language if we don’t feel comfortable. After all, I believe that our shyness is not connected to our language learning. We can learn a language and still be shy, right? Besides, some people just need more time in order to develop oral communication skills. If you are in a language class, try to explain to your professor that you need your own pace. Your professor should respect your learning style and needs.

#3 COMMUNICATING ONLINE CAN BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE

Language learning cannot transform shy people into extrovert language learners. However, shy language learners who nevertheless enjoy social media can opt for alternative communicative settings in order to practise the language they are learning. For example, they can join online conversations, e.g. a forum discussion. This way they will be able to use their new language in a safer setting. Besides, shy language lovers can always use their new language in a great number of situations, from reading and translating novels to enjoying films, exchanging emails or exploring a new academic interest. There is no rule saying that shy people should avoid learning new languages.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your language learning!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Dreams, goals, reality: just focus on the how



When I worked as a teacher, there were many parents who complained that their kids didn't study enough. However, I am not sure that these kids were explicitly told how to study. It seemed that studying techniques was a kind of taboo topic. Much talk was being done about the importance of it, but the actual act of studying was a bit hushed upon. When I was a kid and I was asking how I should study, they shrugged me off telling me that I just needed to 'open the book and start studying'.

Oh really? And when I get bored? And when I don't understand something? And when I don't feel like it? After all, is it normal for a kid to be able to focus on such an unstimulating activity? I did want to study; sometimes I enjoyed it; but sometimes I found it very hard to concentrate. I got bored. I turned on MTV. I called my friends. No focus at all.

Now, the same old story all over again. I have goals. And I get stuck. You, people, with the perfect careers, do tell me, please: how do you do it? I want details. All the gory details. You, with the top class grades. You, who always seem on top of everything. Tell me. How. Do. You. Do. It.

Something similar is happening right now, I am afraid, on a global level. Day after day, articles and blog posts appear urging freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs to get up and do stuff. Achieve our goals. Grow. Fulfil our potential. Leave our comfort zone. But only a few articles and posts tell us how to do it.

I mean, for real. I want to learn how to do it. I want to hear everything that went wrong and how you were able to fix it. I want to read about how you were bored to death, procrastinating like crazy, but still managed to overcome it and finally succeed.

Having said that, I think that what works for a person depends on his or her specific circumstances. What worked for me may not necessarily work for you. But reading about specific cases exposes me to various plans that do work, albeit in a different context, and this gets me in the mood of doing things.  

I am not a big fan of clich├ęs such as 'leave your comfort zone' or 'always think positively because the universe is conspiring for your benefit only'. Instead, I believe that what we want is on the other side of hard work.

And hard work needs a plan. An explicit plan. That's why, when I used to teach, I would explain in detail to my students how they should study. In every single detail. They needed a plan, that is, a clear process. And I don't mean micromanaging, far from it. I just described them how I did it (because at that time I was a student, too). And this did the trick. It put them to the right track. It gave them a good example. That's what I need at the moment. I need to learn how to proceed. What we want is on the other side of hard work. And hard work, people, needs a plan.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

How translators can find comfort in their specialisation


As  a translator, have you ever thought of specialisation as something that can provide you with comfort?

If you ask experienced translators, they will tell you that specialisation is key for success. While this is very true, I also believe that specialisation can give us also a sense of comfort.

One of my fundamental needs as a person is to be around familiar things. Familiarity gives me a sense of security. That's why when I take on jobs within my specialisation I feel very comfortable.

For example, I never hesitate to accept a difficult project when it belongs to my specialisation. In this case my specialisation makes me feel relaxed and confident. What's more, since there will be many aspects of the project that will be familiar, I know I won't waste time or effort on them. Thus I will be able to focus on the more difficult aspects of the project and this will certainly show on the final product in terms of quality. Besides, I am sure that accepting such projects can only make me more productive in the long run.

Finding comfort in our specialisation does not mean that we should stay within our comfort zone and refuse to try anything new. What I am saying here is that when we build a freelance business we need a place where we can feel comfort and safe. This place can be our specialisation. And from there, we can start experimenting. In other words, in order to get uncomfortable, we need to start from a place where we feel comfortable. Do you agree?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Translators and criticism


About your translation… Well, I don't know, something's wrong with it, I can't really tell you what it is, it's so hard to pinpoint… Well, first of all, your words, they weren't exactly wrong, but I wouldn't use these words you know, and overall, looking at your translation I feel that something doesn't feel well… I know it's subjective but… isn't everything subjective in life?

How would you respond if someone said this to you?

Some people find it hard to deal with criticism. Is it because they are sensitive? Or selfish? Is it because they think they know better? After all, criticism can make us work harder and so achieve better results. We should be more open-minded. We should stop being wimps. We should embrace criticism.

Now, what is criticism? The above comment isn't criticism. Criticism can make us better. In which ways the above can make you better? Does it contain specific examples of things that went wrong? Does it clarify certain issues? Does it provide other, more suitable options? Does it justify what it says? The above comment makes you feel bad precisely because it is so vague. And that's why you can't say anything against it. You can't stand your ground.

That's exactly why it's useless, too. It can't help you at all. This just criticises you for the sake of it. Now, if someone really wanted to help you, they would structure their criticism in a different way:

Hey, about that translation, just wanted to pinpoint a few things. First, you translated X as Y but as you can see here in this online dictionary (reference), there is term Z which is more appropriate in this context. Y is more general, right? Second, why did you keep these long sentences of the original? I say you split them up to a point, as it will make the translation easier to read. Overall it was quite good!

This piece of criticism is not bad, right? What do you think?

Now, you may disagree with these changes. But here it would be much easier to respond and defend your case.

Translators are sensitive to criticism for many reasons. First of all there is this 'translator-traitor' mentality, which makes us anxious to translate precisely. Moreover, the struggle with every single detail, which is part and parcel of our lives as translators, often goes unnoticed, whereas a tiny mistake is easily spotted (and frowned upon) by everyone.

Always ask for constructive criticism. When they respond in vague terms, ask them to elaborate. Do the same when you give criticism. Give references and explanations. Be precise and objective. And always make sure that your feedback has constructive value. Criticism can make us better translators. We shouldn't be afraid of it when it is done right.

Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

7 simple marketing tips for shy freelancers


Are you a shy freelancer like me? You want to promote your services but you feel uncomfortable? I feel exactly the same. However, we need to do something about it because, as freelancers, we need to get out there and do stuff. This is the only way clients will notice us. So, here are seven simple marketing tips that I came up with in order to help myself. Hope you find them useful :)

#1 INVESTIGATE YOUR TARGET CULTURE

If you want to market your services in an open, confident culture, you have to find ways to become more assertive. However, if you want to market your services in a culture which values modesty, your introvert style is more than perfect. For example in Greece, when someone is talking constantly about their achievements, it is considered bragging. Moreover, when a product or service is advertised a lot, people become skeptical. So first of all think if your style is already fit for the culture you are aiming your services at.

#2 DEVELOP YOUR OWN STYLE

When it comes to marketing, you should develop your own, personal style. First know yourself and then just be yourself. This is what matters most. And remember, your brand is you. You can't change all of a sudden! Embrace yourself and try to change only the things you feel really uncomfortable with, ignoring each new trend that comes your way.

#3 FOCUS ON OTHERS

If focusing on yourself makes you self-conscious, why not focus instead on the things you can do for others? Think of how your services can help others and promote your business along these lines. This way it will be easier for others to grasp exactly what you can do for them.

#4 START SMALL

If you feel uncomfortable about marketing your services, you should start small. A small website or blog, a few business cards, some phone calls are more than adequate when you start. And slowly but surely, you will get the hang of it. And no matter what, don’t compare yourself with others. They had started small, too!  

#5 SHIFT ATTENTION TO YOUR BRAND IMAGE

Since it feels weird to talk about yourself, why not shift the attention to your brand image? It is going to be much easier if you talk about your brand and its special qualities. This brand is you, of course, but this way you will trick yourself and will overcome your shyness.

#6 BE SIMPLE

A complicated brand, website, or business plan is only going to confuse both you and your clients, making you even more nervous and self-conscious. Why not try simple, clear-cut elements at first? Be simple!

#7 REMEMBER YOUR SHYNESS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING

Think of your shyness as a good thing, a positive attribute that is directly linked to your kind-hearted personality. You shouldn’t give it up. Rather, try to transform it into something more: become a balanced professional, who knows their limitations but who also claims their place in the freelancing world, knowing their strong points and confidently, not braggingly, asserts: here I am, I am good, work with me!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Let the children play

I was very happy that so many people liked my previous post: It’s better late than never for freelance translators. However, I would like to point out that while for most things in life it’s better late than never, there are some things that must happen at the correct moment. But before I continue, I’d like to say that while I haven’t got children myself, I used to be a child, and people who are not parents should not be excluded from the discussion a priori. All voices have something to contribute, right?

So, what I’m trying to say is that while it is possible to do a lot of things later in life, it is impossible to relive your childhood. That’s why for me it goes without saying that no-one should mess with a child’s childhood.

My own childhood is a very special place that I enjoy to revisit quite often. I am capable of locating this precious feeling of being a child. I can recall how it feels to be open to every possibility, how it feels to be fresh, innocent and receptive. A certain song, a comic book, a movie can send me straight back to that special place, giving me at the same time a new lease of life, and strength to keep going. I can remember exactly what excited me as a child: a new book, learning English, exploring geography and astronomy… and this excitement is ever alive with me, even in my darkest moments.

It is impossible to experience being a child again. Our childhood happens only once. That’s why it is extremely important to let children be children. They are entitled to have this special place of their childhood to accompany them as adults. Some people don’t understand it. That’s why we see certain parents relying on their children, assigning to them roles and responsibilities that the children cannot resume. Usually these parents feel especially ‘proud’ of their little ‘lambs dressed as muttons’. But that’s just not right.

Childhood is about making mistakes. About playing. About being innocent. About exploring the world. About making silly declarations or ludicrous revolutions. I know that it is very difficult to become a good parent and that we should not judge. But when you think that it is impossible to become a child ever again, you realise that, after keeping children healthy and fed and clean, we must protect their childhood. Let the children play.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

It's better late than never for freelance translators

You may find it strange that this post seems to invite freelance translators to stop worrying because 'it’s better late than never'. Freelance translators always have some deadline that should be respected at all costs. However, this blog post is not about such deadlines. Rather, it is about the deadlines we set to ourselves, according to popular beliefs and the latest trends.

These deadlines usually go like this: we have to have finished university by the time we reach [certain age]; we have to get a real job by the time we reach [certain age]… and so on and so forth. Some people are actually building their lives around these beliefs, without paying any attention to what they truly want. That’s what leads, in my opinion, to the so-called mid-life crisis: you enter the rat race, you keep up with the Joneses in terms of life decisions and one day you wake up, half of your life has passed and you wonder: did I really want this?

I saw a very nice film recently, and its last lines reminded me of something that had happened to me when I was a kid:

When I was eight years old, some people from the Ministry of Education came to our school to inform us about a certain sports contest that was to take place the following Sunday. As it seemed, they wanted to discover whether any kids with tremendous aptitudes (athletically speaking) could be found among my classmates and me.

I was helpless at sports. I was precocious in Greek and English; I was very good at math and music. But I was really, really helpless at sports. Even today, I can’t understand any kind of sport; I am not able to comprehend the rules to save my life. But the authority of these people hinted that it was obligatory to show up.

I had to show up.

Even now that I am writing these lines I can clearly recall how terrible I felt standing among my classmates in that field on that chilly morning and preparing myself… well… to run a race. Okay, let’s do it, I told myself. I started running and my stomach ached from the effort. Oh dear. After a while it was impossible to go on. So I began to walk away, when suddenly a young gym instructor appeared to my side.

She said: “You have to finish. It doesn’t matter if you finish last, what really matters is to finish”. She even ran with me, at my side, encouraging me to go on. No other teacher had done something like that for me before.

I finished last. My name was actually written in a list which was pinned up at school for everyone to see. It hurt so much! But after all these years, I feel that on that Sunday morning the only kid that actually learned something from the whole experience was me. It became obvious to me that it doesn’t matter at all if you finish last, what is important is to finish.

There are a few things that I did ‘late’ in my life, and many things that I haven’t done yet. For example I got my second degree much later in life and at that age I became a translator as well. It doesn’t matter at all if I have started late. The satisfaction I get from my profession is enormous. Instead of spending my time regretting, I chose the path of ‘better late than never’. And regarding translation as a profession, I think it is not so bad after all to have started a bit later. So, if you have some wild dream, consider whether it falls in the category of ‘better late than never’, and go for it!

“No, what matters is to finish it. Films have to be finished, even if you do it blindly.
─Mateo Blanco (Lluis Homar), Broken Embraces

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

5 ways a freelance translator can use the Internet in a more positive manner



It  was back in early 1998 when I was first introduced to the Internet: there was this friend of mine who was telling me again and again how you can find everything online (“Wanna come upstairs to show you my Internet?” seemed to be the perfect pick-up line for the nerdy gal I was in those days).

So, what was the first thing I wanted to look up on the Internet?

Song lyrics! There were so many English songs I was absolutely curious to look up and find out at last their exact lyrics. It was obvious from the very first moment that I wanted to use this new medium in a way that was meaningful and relevant to me.

But it is not always easy to do so.

Sometimes I find it quite hard to balance my online presence and my regular life. I am using the Internet in a way that is not always meaningful and relevant: it is becoming a burden.

So I decided to sit down and reflect upon what had possibly gone wrong.

First I realised that my relationship with the Internet these past few years has somewhat changed. Now I use it also as a professional tool. As a freelancer I am interested in networking with fellow professionals as well as with potential clients. And that’s the main reason I use social media, too.

And it was then that it came to me: if I am to use the Internet more positively, I have to re-examine the way I use it on a professional level. And that’s exactly what I did. So now I’d like to share my thoughts with you and give you a few tips I came up with in order to use the Internet in a more positive way. Hope they can help you as much as they helped me!

#1 PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE THAN THEIR ONLINE PROFILES

One of the first thoughts I had was that I was objectifying myself on the Internet. I was doing it mainly through comparing and contrasting myself with the other professionals. But we are not just a part of the machine: each of us has their own special value as a person and as a professional. And we obviously are a lot more than the sum total of our qualifications: our true essence as human beings can never be reduced to an online profile. Yet when we see the abundance of professionals out there it’s easy to imagine that clients are able to pick and choose. That’s not always true. We are not interchangeable. Each of us is special and worthy in our own way.

#2 GOALS CAN HELP US FIND OUR WAY

The Internet is so vast it can become a total time waster. Unless you have a good compass that helps you find your way. For me this compass is my personal goal. When I try to avoid causes that are irrelevant to my goal I use the Internet more effectively. Besides, my goal helps me beat procrastination because this way I become more focused on what I want to do. But most importantly, sticking to my goal has helped me meet people that share my interests. Again, the advice that works is to always use the Internet in a way that is relevant and meaningful to you!

#3 A GOOD SCHEDULE IS KEY

I came to the conclusion that we should schedule our time online because I had a feeling that the Internet is taking over my life. And why was that so? Partly because I felt compelled to answer every single email or message immediately. The Internet gives us the feeling we are living in a total ‘present’, that’s why while we are online we tend to forget about the future and we want to do everything right now. Maybe it will work for you to make a deal with yourself and check what’s happening on the online world every thirty, sixty, or ninety minutes (I am not able to make this deal yet. But I will try). In any case you should never forget that our time online needs to be scheduled because otherwise it can get easily out of hand. 

#4 WE CAN’T ALWAYS BE AVAILABLE

Sometimes the client does not see us translators as complete people with own life and needs. For example, when we respond almost immediately to an email or to a DM, clients tend to assume that we are always available. We should NEVER identify with this image. Rather, we need to balance our professional with our personal lives. And if there are some freelancers who work constantly, without even a small break, and who are always available for everyone, that’s very fine (for us, obviously not for them). It is impossible to compete in these terms. Forget about it and move on.

#5 ENRICH YOUR LIFE, NOT JUST YOUR PROFILE

For me, but I believe for others as well, the Internet has started to give me the uncanny feeling that it is ‘unreal’. I don’t know how to explain this. I’ll just say that sometimes I feel the Internet is somehow disconnected from real life, as if it’d got a life of its own. So I decided to do the following: I thought about real people and tried to imagine a fictitious online profile for each of them. And then I suddenly realised that an online profile, however detailed, would never do these people justice. It would always somehow ‘reduce’ them. Why? Because online presence acts just as an appendix to our real life. Yet we sometimes forget. Sometimes we even use our real life to enhance our media presence! The Internet should supplement real life, not the other way round. If you feel you are spending too much time online, that certainly means something. Think whether you’re not satisfied with your regular life, and if not, try to do something about it. Finally, do not waste your time on creating the 'perfect' profile. In any case, it will not do you justice. Instead, try to interact more with fellow professionals and potential clients with the aim of meeting them at some point in real life (but always in a safe context). That’s what I am going to do from now on! What about you?

Thanks for reading!