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A Day in the Life of a Translator

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This article was written by one of our translators, describing one of her typical days

Remember that old adage, never work with animals or children? This most fundamental advice of old clearly eluded me when I decided to go freelance along with two children, a dog and two cats. Phrases involving plans, mice and men feature strongly in my working day, with organisation flying out of the window along with the computer on occasion.

My typical day begins with a walk through the woods to school. Besides being a very serene start to the day not least for the dog, and especially if I have been at my desk since 5 am it has the additional benefit of allowing me to contra off any chocolate consumed during a sedentary days translation and also to mull over any headlines or anything else requiring quiet contemplation. I often use this time to give translations or editing a final read-through manic multi-tasker that I am.

Once home, medicinal coffee in hand, I make my way to my desk, carefully blinkering out anything vaguely domestic in my path that might hamper my progress. This is somewhat impeded, however, when the dog has raided the larder and the cats are chasing a clearly terrified starling round the kitchen. Faced with feathers, muesli and myriad other items, I find myself having to make a ludicrous decision between rescuing my favourite china and meeting my deadline

Finally seated at my desk, I am immediately conscious of all that I have to get through, the few hours available and the speed with which time passes. Foreign language translation is not something that can be rushed, though the challenge of creating a piece of copy in a restricted timescale is both challenging and immensely satisfying. My advertising and marketing background means that practically everything I handle has a creative slant and I have worked on everything from the transcription of German TV commercials to the adaptation of a new version of Pinocchio.

My bête noire is not so much the pressure of deadlines but the stuff of life that tends to crop up with an almost ironic sense of timing. I have run out of fingers on which to count the number of times that I have just promised to squeeze in an extra six hundred words for a particular afternoon when the phone line crackles with the dulcet tones of the school nurse.

I quickly learned to value my laptop. Having once decided to delay taking my daughter to hospital as there were no obvious signs of bruising or swelling typical of a greenstick fracture I later discovered I now have no qualms about sitting in paediatric A&E with it perched on my knee.

It is also surely no coincidence that there appears to be a definite correlation between a looming deadline and gremlins in the works. I have been found sobbing uncontrollably into my keyboard on occasion and I often yell at the screen it doesnt achieve anything, of course, but I remain ever hopeful that a miracle will occur. I always sleep with a back-up disk under my pillow for good measure. Burglars may not be interested in how you can tell a Frolic dog but I cant take the risk!

I have worked through the night to complete a job and I have lain on the settee with my laptop nursing a fever but I would not swap this life. Come summer, I have been known to relocate my office under the apple tree in the garden. A project manager on the phone once asked, Is that birds I can hear twittering? That reminds me, I must go and vacuum up those feathers.

At thebigword we are always on the look out for talented and committed people to join our team. If you are looking to join our team of professional translators, please email your CV to translators@thebigword.com

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