What I learned in December 2016

As I draw this series to a close and reflect on 2016, my overriding need and desire remain managing my time better so I can fit everything in: work, family and me-time. I’ve been struggling because family issues have swallowed up huge chunks of my time and look as if they will continue to require my attention for some months to come. Going forward, I’ll have to try to focus harder on what matters and get my priorities right by being more organised and ruthless because I haven’t always achieved everything I set out to do. On that note, I found this short TED Talk by Laura Vanderkam incredibly inspiring.

Moaning about the fact that I don’t have time to do something basically means I don’t view it as a priority, probably because I don’t want to do it or find it challenging. If I really do plan to get some things done this year, I need to list my goals, as Laura suggests, for career, relationships and self and stop wasting time on things that don’t help me to realise them and become more productive.

cutting down on social media

Cutting down on social media is a start (I touched on this in the May instalment of this series) and although I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving Facebook altogether, instead I’ve culled even more groups to declutter my feed. Perhaps one of the reasons I love Twitter so much is because people are forced to reduce their news/opinions/thoughts to a few characters that are so easy to digest.

listening to music

As I mentioned in the September instalment, I now often listen to music while I’m working to help me concentrate. Because of my daughter I’ve recently discovered Spotify and enjoy listening to some soothing jazz when I don’t feel like focus@will. And translating without being connected to the Internet is, of course, a great way to minimise distractions when you have a lot to power through.

dealing with emails

Dealing with endless emails is one of my biggest bugbears. I try to keep on top of them by pulling out my smartphone whenever I have a moment and scanning them to get the gist before either acting on them or deleting. Some I never even open because I know I won’t be interested from the heading. Emails that I shouldn’t ignore or delay responding to are potential job offers, however inconvenient it is when they ping into my inbox (trying to work or just about to go out). To help me respond quickly to new clients, I now have a couple of files (one in English, the other in Spanish) with copies of various “cover letters” or replies to jobs stating what I do and my prices. It makes replying to enquiries so much quicker and I just have to tweak the letter a bit to fit the context.

learning languages

I’ve been talking to my daughter about learning languages quite a lot recently because she’s deciding which GCSE options to choose, especially which language (they are all encouraged to take one). Spanish (surprise, surprise) seems to be the top choice so far, although she may end up adding German and study two. Even though she’s got a good memory (better than mine ever was), learning all the vocabulary can be hard work given that she won’t be able to use a dictionary when she sits her exams and there is a translation element in GCSEs. I used to write lists, try to memorise them and test myself the next day. Anything I couldn’t remember would go back on the list. I still do something similar in my translations. I often look words up that I know. Just to make sure or to see if perhaps there’s a better term for the context than the one that pops into my head.

Doing a historical text early in the month also got me reaching for my paper dictionaries and relying heavily on a monolingual resource (the online version of the DRAE). Despite having the top three (I believe) paper Spanish–English tomes (Collins, Oxford and Webster’s), the answers I needed were not in all of them. Another good reason never to have enough resources or not to throw anything away.

What sets us apart from machines?

It also got me thinking about another important skill we translators must have and that sets us apart from machines. Realising that the usual translation for a word just won’t work in the context and searching for a term that will. Sometimes this means leaving the original in italics and writing an explanation or loose translation in brackets or even adding a footnote (depending on the type of document). Not being aware that our choice to translate a term isn’t quite right can make our translation, or at least a part of it, fail. So how can we cultivate a mindset that sets alarm bells ringing when an obvious choice won’t do this time around? Be curious, read a lot, be critical of your own work, leave as much time as possible between finishing the translation part and checking it through, have your work revised (see Allison Wright’s excellent guest post on the importance of receiving feedback).

lara-pramJust a week before Christmas we lost our beloved greyhound tripod, Lara. Back in April I wrote about the suspected cancer that resulted in her leg having to be amputated. I expect she’ll always be the most photographed dog at Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-upon-Avon, lapping up all the attention (she always was a “people” dog) from her pram.

It’s the firsts that are the hardest and that really get to you

The first time you wake up to just one dog eagerly awaiting treats. The first time you realise you don’t have to break the bread crust in two halves anymore. The first time you only need to take one lead off the hook. The first time you sit on the sofa and she’s not there to snuggle up for a cuddle. The first time you’re in the dog food aisle in the supermarket and don’t need to buy her favourite treats anymore. The first time you go away and only have to pack enough food for one dog and put one bed in the car. The first time you go back to the vets after she’s gone and it’s to pick up her ashes. The first time you realise she was even more special than you had ever imagined.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

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2 thoughts on “What I learned in December 2016

  1. So sorry to hear about Lara, Nikki – I didn’t realise. I feel for you; we had to have our beloved collie x beardie cross put down 6 years ago at just short of 16 and it was a horrible time. It must be even more devastating for people with only one dog as a house without any dogs just isn’t a home to me. I hope your remaining greyhound is coping and not pining too much. They are all so special and individual in their own way. We waited 18 months to get a new second dog, and Leo is adorable in his own right – but you can never replace that unique personality you have lost.

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