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!

Friday, 27 December 2013

3 reasons why trying to finish a language is a bad idea


Some people here in Greece share various assumptions about language learning which I find particularly disturbing. One of these assumptions has to do with the idea of 'finishing' a language. And these people usually mean that if you have managed to attain some certificate (some refer to them as 'degrees', which I find particularly annoying) you have 'finished' the language in question.

I believe that trying to finish a language is totally a bad idea, even dangerous, I’d say, mainly for three reasons:

#1 BECAUSE IT LEADS TO PERFECTIONISM

The idea that language is somewhat finite is completely absurd. A language can never be finished: even native speakers have to study it again and again if they want to use it smoothly. That is why this idea can lead to perfectionism, and perfectionism in language learning is a motivation killer. Since the finishing line can never be visible, the task of language learning becomes both vague and unreachable.

#2 BECAUSE IT LEADS TO FEELINGS OF DEPRIVATION

During your course of learning a language, it’s possible that at some point you’ll just feel like exploring other languages. That means you’d like to check whether you like them, and if you do, you’d really like to start learning them. However, the idea of finishing a language makes this forbidden: you think you should try to finish what you have started first, whatever this is supposed to mean! So, you end up feeling somewhat deprived, even angry towards your new language, which just refuses to finish in order for you to move on.

#3 BECAUSE IT LEADS TO INACTION

Finally, it is possible that sometimes we just get stuck in our learning and we need a break. When this had happened to me, I thought this time could be used on a new language. But then I felt I just had to finish the first language in order to pick a new one. And when I forced myself to go on with the first, it just didn’t work, and guess what happened: I stopped studying altogether!

Instead of trying to fit into others’ expectations and try to ‘finish’ a language, it is important to be able to create your own personal milestones to look forward to. In other words, to pinpoint certain moments that from that point onwards you will regard as milestones, and which will give you the courage and the strength to move on with your language learning, which never finishes, of course.

One such milestone for me was the moment I finished reading the first English book I ever read. Since then my English is much better, but at that precise moment I felt I had really made much progress, and I still look back to that moment with feelings of pride and accomplishment.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

How many things you love can you share in 10 minutes?


Olga Arakelyan was the first to share in ten minutes the things she loves.

Then, her blog post inspired Alina Cincan from Inbox Translation to ask a group of fellow translators to do exactly the same. I feel so happy that she included me in this group as well. And I have to say, after reading Alina’s post I feel I know her on a more personal level.

Hopefully the same will happen to you with me and my list.

It is great to be able to connect like this through blogging, and I'm grateful to have met all of you.

So, how many of these things can I share in just ten minutes?

1. Books. I read a lot of books. Around forty a year. And I’m buying more books than my bookcases can hold.
2. Language learning materials and dictionaries. I am addicted to them!
3. Good food, preferably exotic and difficult to pronounce. I also love trying new recipes!
4. The Acropolis. If I don’t go downtown to see the Acropolis from afar at least once a month, something’s not quite right with me.
5. Walking in Athens. In this respect, I’m a flâneur… love to stroll about, catching glimpses of this ever-changing city.
6. All things English.
8. Christmas decorations. One can never have too many!
9. Travelling and exploring new places.
10. The sea.
11. Snow.
12. Cats.
13. Maps and geography. Since I was a kid, I was always on the lookout for the most faraway places and said: I shall go there one day!
14. Icelandic mythology… trolls, giants, Loki, etc.
15. Antique surveying instruments.
16. Astronomy.
18. Birdwatching.
19. Gardening.
20. Baking bread.

Thank you so much Alina for having such a wonderful idea. Looking forward to your next one!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Translating the translated



During the process of translating a literary work, it is possible that we come across a bit of text which does not belong to the work as it is.

We may meet epigraphs, for example. Epigraphs are short quotations which have been put at the beginning of chapters, and which belong to another work. Even though they (may) appear in the same language as the literary work, it is likely that they are translations themselves, translated from another language.

So, what can be done in this case? 



Some translators translate roughly from the translated and think that this is okay.

It is not.

This bit is not equivalent to the rest of the text.

This bit belongs to another literary work, and we have to deal with it as such.

First we have to do some research in order to identify the work from which it has been taken.

For example, this bit could be an extract from the Bible.

In this case, we have to go to the Bible’s official translation, find the relevant bit, and insert it into the target text. In order to avoid endless translator’s notes that may disrupt the reader, we can cite the source in the work’s introduction.

Or, this bit could be an extract from a classic work such as the Iliad. In this case, we can use any published translation we think that fits the style of the text we are translating. Again, in order to avoid endless translator’s notes we can cite the source in the work’s introduction.

Bear in mind that it won’t be such a good idea to try your hand at translating this bit yourself!

When we translate a work from a language into another, such problems come up very often. So, since translation demands from us to re-create the work into another language, before getting down to the actual translation work it is imperative that we 'unlock' the source text. Keep in mind that processes such as literary allusion and intertextuality can transfer significant tension from the source text to the target text. Therefore we must be ready to move between texts the way we move between languages, keeping at the same time our eyes open in order to avoid traps as the above.

Have you ever met a bit of text that was itself a translation? What did you do?

Friday, 15 February 2013

New words are our new friends



When I’m learning a new language, I’m always on the lookout for effective ways to deal with grammar and vocabulary.

Grammar rules tend to stick to my mind rather easily, even though they tend to… disappear right when I need them! But vocabulary is a different story. Learning vocabulary in a new language takes both time and patience. What’s more, if we don’t see new words often, they constantly slip our minds. 

Maybe this happens because new words are like new friends. We have to meet them often in order to be their friends.

I find it impossible to take a list of new words and learn them by heart. Even if some of them stick, I am going to forget them later on.

Just like people I met once. They are not my friends.

But if I meet them one day at the grocery store, the next day at the supermarket, or at a friend’s house… First they are acquaintances. Yet slowly, these people become my friends.

That’s exactly what we need to do with vocabulary.

Not only should we meet new words again and again but also we should meet them in various environments or contexts.

This way they will stick to our minds much easier.

 And how are we going to do that?

By increasing the possibility of meeting new words again and again. That’s what I have done when I learned English:

I listened to songs and looked up the lyrics.
I saw movies without subs.
I read a great amount of novels and non-fiction.
I noticed everything written in English.
I looked up stuff that interested me such as recipes, gardening tips etc.
I looked up every single word in the dictionary.

All the above involve spending amounts of time just hanging out with the new language. And without stressing, just hanging out, it was much easier to learn.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Quotes about writing



I found some very nice quotes that can give us inspiration to write, especially in the days it gets very difficult. I would like to share with you the ones I think are true for me:


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” 
― Maya Angelou
It is important to be who you want to be, in this case a writer. It is pointless to try to become anything else.


“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” 
― Maya Angelou
Sometimes there’s no need to hear the answers. You need only to feel that people share with you the same questions.


“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” 
― Stephen King
All writers had a passion for reading. 


“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” 
― Jack Kerouac
No universal truths were verbose.


“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” 
― Anton Chekhov
Don’t be analytical in your writing; you have to show, not to tell!


“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” 
― Henry David Thoreau
But many people have been inside their homes all their lives, yet have written great novels. It depends. Nevertheless, I like this quote.


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing
Again, don’t be verbose in your writing. 


“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 
― Stephen King


“Always be a poet, even in prose.” 
― Charles Baudelaire
In this case, writing will never be boring.


“One always has a better book in one's mind than one can manage to get onto paper.” 
― Michael Cunningham


“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” 
― Jack London


“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” 
― Anaïs Nin
Many times when reading a novel I have realised that the writer has shaped many of my thoughts into words.


“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing
In other words, don’t over-analyse. Readers want you to be subtle, and to let them finish the job.


“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 
― Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Even maps tell lies


Nothing is certain in this life.

For example, we go to school and learn geography, without realising that what we see in world maps may not be always the truth.

And how could it be true, since it is not possible to represent the earth, which is roughly a sphere, onto a flat piece of paper without error.

Okay, we certainly expect some error, but what kind of error?

Is it possible that school world maps could represent the earth so inaccurately, showing country A as bigger than country B, when in fact country B is actually bigger than country A?

But that’s precisely what happens!

One of the most common map projections, the Mercator projection, distorts the countries’ surfaces according to their distance from the equator. This leads to Greenland being shown as bigger than Africa, when in fact Africa is much much bigger. 

These problems can be solved by using a different kind of map projection, which is called the equal-area projection. The Gall-Peters projection is a good example of this.

Nevertheless, if you come across a map made like this, you will find it both awkward and disorientating.

Maybe it is better sometimes to look at the numbers, which never lie – almost:
Greenland: Total Area: 2,166,086 km2
Africa: Total Area: 30,221,532 km2

References
Wikipedia contributors. "Gall–Peters projection." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Sep. 2012. Web. 3 Oct. 2012. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Look up the words you know


When translating a text, the unknown words are not something we should fear.

It is the known words that we should fear.

'Known' are the words we have been exposed to, the words that we have looked up in the dictionary at some point, the words that we think we know what they mean.

So, why should we pay particular attention to them? 

Because we think we know what they mean.

We are not sure.

Moreover, we may be familiar with one particular sense of the word. Yet, in the text we are translating, the word may appear in a different sense. Or the word may be a false friend with a word in our language; if we use it the wrong way, we make a terrible mistake.

Take the word 'sycophantically'. It derives from a Greek word, so you may think “okay, this is a known word, let’s by-pass the dictionary and use the Greek word in question". Stop! You’re making a terrible mistake! 'Sycophantically' in English has a totally different meaning. In fact, it means 'flatteringly' whereas the corresponding Greek word means 'slanderous'. That’s one of the reasons us translators should be paying extreme attention to what we are doing, since it is not always clear from the context that we are making a mistake. Be careful!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Czech… and the city


According to Paul Knox (1995), the city offers an immense variety of opportunities. Look how he quotes Fischer citing ‘the reaction of a ‘refugee’ New Yorker living in Vermont: 

I kept hearing this tempting ad for a Czechoslovakian restaurant… When the ad went on to say that this particular place had been chosen by the critic of the Times out of all the Czech restaurants in New York as the very best, I could have broken down and cried. We hardly get a choice of doughnut stands in Vermont; New Yorkers idly pick and choose among Czech restaurants.

This is how I want to live. To be able to pick and choose among all the interesting things the city has to offer. 

By the way, there are 2 Czech restaurants in Athens (I have been in both), 16 French, 15 Indian, 4 Spanish, 159 Italian, 41 Chinese, 5 African, and 25 Japanese-Sushi restaurants (according to ask4food.gr).

Life in the cities is quite stimulating, isn’t it?

References
Knox, Paul. Urban Social Geography. An Introduction. Third Edition. 1995. Essex: Longman. 158-159.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The easy way of writing


I have been dreaming about becoming a writer since I was a child, and I used to write stories very often.

Yet I had a very sadistic view about writing: that writing should flow naturally out of you. That you shouldn’t fret about it, or else you were not a ‘true’ writer. If you put any effort whatsoever, you didn’t have much talent as a writer. These were my views back then.

Anything that would make my writing life easier, I regarded as ‘cheating’.

Now I embrace anything that can help me write more and better.

One book that has helped me a lot is What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. The following writing sketches are inspired from this excellent book and its instructions.

The book advises to practise writing opening lines for imaginary novels just to get the knack of it.

The following pairs are based on opposite ideas to make it easier. And it is easier because now I am writing with a solid, concrete purpose:

PAIRS OF SENTENCES TO BEGIN A NOVEL

BIRTH
A new baby exactly at the beginning of the day, cracking alive together with the crack of dawn, can bring nothing but optimism to our black, shabby world. 

DEATH
A low moaning, together with the cry of a bird, and the shadow of a blackbird, marked his last moments of mortal sorrow. 

MOTHER
She cast her eyes down the small body, and found herself. 

DAUGHTER
A twig made a chirping sound –or was it a bird?– as Karen moved towards her mother’s table at St Tropez. 

RICH
Donna’s idea of breakfast consisted beaches, sea, and at least five of her friends. 

POOR
He looked down at his navel, and back in the mirror, he touched briefly his eyebrows, his mouth, his chest, and only then did he realise he was completely, absolutely, terribly hungry.

Do you think that these opening lines would make interesting novels?
What could be happening in terms of plot?
What about the characters these openings evoke?
Would you like to write your own opening lines? It is so easy!