Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Translation twilight zone

Primeiro oob - Entrando na Twilight Zone
 Entrando na Twilight Zone - Photo Credit: marcusrg

I’ve been translating for a living for about 15 years now, so I guess you could call me an “experienced translator.” I have a bevy of regular and loyal clients, at least one of whom has been with me since the very beginning, and several others who have been with me for over 10 years. It’s a strange business where you can work with people for years, talking on the phone, exchanging emails, and never once meet with them face to face.

In general, it’s work that I enjoy: it can be challenging and creative, and I greatly appreciate the flexibility of self-employment. That said, after 15 years, I’ve had to deal with pretty much all the common problems, both technical and business-related, that a translator will typically encounter. And while I don’t mean to complain, one of the things that really weighs me down is having to constantly work with at best mediocre, and often downright execrable, source texts. 

Most people are not writers, and as a language professional, I am all-too-often expected to produce silk purses out of sows’ ears. It has gotten so bad of late that I have begun to wonder if I shouldn’t start looking for a third career. As I said, I like my work for the most part, and the idea of going out and finding a “real job” is horrific to me. But I feel a little like I’m stuck in a professional Sargasso Sea, a Bermuda Triangle, a translation twilight zone, if you will, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.

So I was overjoyed today to get word of a really exciting project that, if all goes according to plan, I will soon be a part of. I can’t provide any details right now, but once things get started, I hope to be able to blog about it. I can say that it would be a real feather in my professional cap, and my work could be read by hundreds of thousands of people every day.

It all began when one of my occasional clients recommended me for this particular project. The new client in turn asked me to do a test translation. I don’t normally do test translations for free, but I made an exception this time because the project looked interesting. The test had two parts, one more literary in nature, the other more technical. Both test texts were well written and fun to translate, and, not to sing my own praises (well, maybe a little), I really nailed them, especially the literary text.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Then today, I heard from the client, and they told me they were very impressed with my work and were eager to work with me. The hitch, as is so often the case, is that the money isn’t quite as good as I had hoped (though it’s not insulting either). But since I am generally willing to give a discount for volume, and this project will potentially stretch over three years, I told them I’d be willing to be flexible on my rate if they could meet me halfway. I’m optimistic things will work out.

It’s been some time since I’ve been this excited about a project, and I must say that it’s always stimulating and motivational when a client or potential client praises your work. But most of all, I’m very much looking forward to translating some well-written, meaningful writing. I think this contract could be just the tonic I need—a wind in my sails to propel me through these professional doldrums.

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