Why Did I Become A Professional Translator?

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    Who hasn’t been asked why they got into the line of work that they do for a living? And how many, when cast in the spotlight of the question of their prospects in their job for what their profession is all about, feel awkward when asked such a question?


    Speaking as someone who has been a self-employed translator for more than ten years, the benefits of being self-employed are both easy to outline and easy to understand: you get to choose your hours and whom you get to work for and where you work, along with complete autonomy as to the methods you will employ in your work. I understand that these points are alluring not just about the concern of pleasing your customers (existing or potential), but also the schedule of being competitive. After all, I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: to be successful when you’re self-employed, it’s not enough to do what seems right alone. I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means but even if you genuinely and consciously believed you don’t receive what you’re worth through no fault of your own, let me ask you this (as a rhetorical question): what do you most commonly hide from or deny?


    Of course, amid a global pandemic, these are unusually challenging times – in my country, the UK, whatever you think about Boris Johnson, it’s obvious he’s reluctant about imposing some of the toughest restrictions on the British population ever to be enacted in peacetime, and with good reason. And while I still do some translation work, I have personally experienced how getting new customers is only all the more difficult, and I don’t even hear from my most regular clients all that much anymore, but I know I won’t be the only one. You know that there is an unspoken public plea that everyone, to put it crudely, do more and for less as tough decisions will likely only become more and more the norm.


    So if you are wondering why I became a professional translator, I would imagine that the real question is pretty much this: who am I really, and what exactly do I intend to become? I don’t believe it’s enough to say that I have a languages degree and postgraduate translation studies experience. Not in the real world. You must understand that I intend to convey information on my talents here and information on my professional approach and priorities that are enough to continue to stand me in good stead. You see, the current situation being what it is, some may be particularly curious as to precisely what motivated me to become a professional translator in the first place, ever eager to be convinced that it’s for more than just the money or indeed the “perks” like those I mentioned in the first paragraph. That said, I can say that I like this work quickly enough – I find that I’m going out on a limb here when I suggest that attempts to sound optimistic may make one come across as naïve in a context like this.


    So let me make this crystal clear: I showed myself to be a highly talented linguist from a young age – not to brag – and I truly believed that it would be a shame to let the talents that I have displayed and augmented over many years go to waste. This is in addition to the fact that I have excellent reasons to substantiate my claim that I don’t lack confidence. I am ready to act with decisiveness and conviction in a verbal expression where someone has to, and not just in some loose hope of vindicating my arguments and position in a situation where increasing frustration is as good as declared inevitable. This is how I am comfortable translating material that I know will always matter more to other people (identified or not) than to myself… to a certain extent.


    I have posted many blogs and tweets with extensively discussed original content relevant to the field in which I operate, and I am confident that they illustrate my willingness to be creative in writing assignments and with all the consideration and caution one could hope for. I offer this as an example that I hope you will enjoy reading: https://www.georgetrailtranslator.co.uk/the-price-of-earning-trust/


    Let me mention that I recently did a project for a client the likes of which I have never done before: it was a matter of rating machine translation output of random phrases (English from German). I had some precise instructions to follow, but I’m sure I did it right – and it was interesting. One example was “Spiel dich Nicht so auf” – an expression that’s only really on the tip of native German speakers’ tongues mostly, but OK. Anyway, the two suggested provided translations I had to reckon with were “Don’t play yourself so important” and “Don’t play yourself that way” – the former one, to me at least, suggests an accusation of arrogance. At the same time, the latter, I find, could also be interpreted in that way, but it just leaves too much open to imagination and guesswork. Another example: “Stellt euch vor, ihr wärt Zwei Wochen lang ununterbrochen offline!” with suggested translation A “Imagine that you stayed offline for two full weeks” and suggested translation B “Imagine being offline being continuously for two weeks!” I judge that while A is quite sound and entirely correct in its terms, I was more won over by B. A can be taken to imply a decision made beforehand to stay offline for two weeks, while B is better at hinting at shock and incredulity at the mere thought of such an idea. I take it upon myself to identify subtle factors/points like these that are to be associated with totally random expressions from one language to another all the time and find inventive yet clear solutions – solutions which I, of course, should always be ready to justify as solutions capable of winning someone over as both fluent and correct.


    In any case, I am determined and ambitious. When I say I am willing to develop and expand further in my career, I have a very clear notion as to what this means: developing a full grasp of a specialist vocabulary and equivalent French and German expressions in specific fields, be it legal, financial, technical or whatever else. In any case, I look forward to considering taking on your French-to-English or German-to-English project for a fair price – I am fully accustomed to working to deadlines, and I can provide samples of past work in many areas on request. Thank you, and stay safe.


    Yours sincerely, George Trail.