What I learned in September 2016

I’m posting this rather late because October has been another busy month for me work- and family-wise. It’s also been quite hectic on the blog with the start of the revision survey results (do check them out if you haven’t already. I’ve included as many comments as I can to show the range of opinions on the topic) and more MA review posts (on Cardiff and Westminster).

The autumn ushers in the start of the conference season, which kicked off early with the Proz.com one in Stockholm, closely followed by SATT 2016 in Italy and then quite a few more. The most recent one as I write is Translating Europe Forum 2016 and the ATA 57th Annual Conference begins on 2 November. Why am I telling you all this? Because if, like me, you want to keep up with what people are saying at these events, i.e. the latest sector news and thoughts, but cannot attend in person for whatever reason, you can just turn to Twitter and read the many tweets posted by attendees with dedicated hashtags. If you’re not a Twitter user and I’ve lost you, click on the links above to see what I mean.

Gaining a glimpse of the action at live events is one of Twitter’s best features

Even if a tweet merely sums up a point in a few words, often without giving any clue about the context it’s couched in, gaining a glimpse of the action at live events is one of Twitter’s best features. Some have a Twitter wall so attendees can easily see your comments if you join in the conversation. Others offer free live streaming (if you have the time to watch all day) or videos of talks you can purchase.

It was during one of these conferences in September that I read a tweet saying that to be a successful freelancer you need to be “untouchable”. And despite not actually being present in the room, with all the context complications that entails, I’m assuming the speaker basically means you should become a translator that can’t be replaced by anyone else. And this ties in with another favourite that gets bandied about a lot: we need to have a USP (unique selling point).

I understand the sentiment behind all this, I really do. But in essence it’s utter nonsense. If I was a company manager, I’d be mightily worried if I thought a collaborator my firm hired couldn’t be replaced and I’d make sure I was never left with a gap I couldn’t fill.

Such marketing speak at our conferences is beginning to wear me down. Pseudo-inspiring phrases with no substance and no real truth are frequently uttered and merrily retweeted. But you don’t have to be one of a kind to be successful. In fact, if you work exclusively or mainly with direct clients, you should ensure you have a handpicked backup team in place to take over when you’re ill/on holiday/too busy.

You don’t have to be one of a kind to be successful

And surely I don’t need to tell agencies that they cannot rely on just one translator to cover a particular client’s requests. I remember many moons ago, when I was at Barcelona airport about to get on a plane to fly to Madrid to celebrate my birthday, an agency phoned to offer me a translation. When I explained that I wouldn’t be able to accept the job because I was going away for a couple of days, the PM hit the roof: “But you ALWAYS do the translations for this client,” she sputtered. She hung up and found someone else. I enjoyed my celebration with my closest friends at my favourite pizza restaurant. We still worked together for a while after that until I lost my patience with her bad manners and the agency’s payment practices. But that’s another story.

In September I finally managed to finish a book (nothing exciting like a novel, though) I’d been translating for a couple of months. Given that I was short on time towards the end and needed to focus, I went back to translating “old-style” with dictionaries and all my homemade glossary lists rather than looking things up online and getting distracted on the way (sometimes deliberately choosing to work in a place where the Internet connection was bad or unavailable to minimise distractions).

Not having access to the Internet means I am far less likely to read an article I come across while I research or “quickly” check my social media feeds (my smartphone keeps track of emails and some social media sites for me, so I’m never entirely disconnected). It helps my concentration and bumps up the number of words I can translate in an hour. And I’m certainly not the only one to view this as a positive experience that should feature more in our working lives or be concerned that we could lose our mental faculties if we spend too much time online.

Getting distracted is one of my main bugbears and I need to become more efficient

Besides the above time-saving tip, I also discovered focus@will in September, became totally addicted and have now subscribed. The first time I used the site I was tired and my daughter had a lot of homework to do all at once as we were going away the following weekend and she had to finish before the trip. As it’s free for 15 days and I’ve often gravitated towards YouTube to find some classical and New-Age compilations to help me concentrate, I thought I’d give it a whirl. YouTube is, naturally, much cheaper that subscribing. But I found the science behind focus@will fascinating and like the idea of listening to pieces that have been specifically chosen to aid concentration and eliminate distraction. Because getting distracted is one of my main bugbears about myself and something I need to address to become more efficient.

Once my daughter completed all her homework (after listening to classical pieces for some hours), she immediately told me to switch the depressing music off and put her favourite (inane) radio station on instead. But I’ve never seen her so focused on one tedious homework task after another for such a long time without complaining EVERY five minutes, so I think it works. You can skip tracks you don’t like and the program will remember your choices.

All in all, I find focus@will incredibly calming and an effective way to relieve stress and switch from an “I’m overwhelmed” attitude to saying “I’ve got this” instead.

If you’re put off by the cost, they have a channel on YouTube with quite a few videos you can listen to after your trial is over.

Photo by Max Fuchs on Unsplash

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7 thoughts on “What I learned in September 2016

  1. Great recap, Nikki! I really enjoyed the read!

    Also, thank you for the reference to the post ‘Keep yourself from losing your memory to the Internet’ in my blog, a translator thinking outside the box.

    I look forward to reading more from you, which is always extremely interesting stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. But maybe by “untouchable” the speaker meant turning off the Internet like you did!? 🙂 In any case, I agree that the marketing speak gets tiring after a while.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love focus@will! I discovered it some months ago and it works wonders for me, especially when used with good headphones that block most of the noise from outside. I have also subscribed by now and it’s worth the money. I usually listen to Uptempo and it helps me focus when I’m exhausted or distracted or when I’m in a noisy environment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only ever used uptempo once when I was really tired but needed to keep translating (it worked!). Most of the time I switch between classical, classical piano, acoustical and cinematic and occasionally use alpha chill and ambient. I’ve even listened to some of the sounds under LABS with some success, although I found most of them distracting rather than calming.


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