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This week, work has consisted of a variety of tiny jobs, $45 here, $35 there, everything in a “post-machine translation editing” format. I haven’t delved deeply into any particular scientific subject. Maybe it's the season, the coronavirus, or even the nature of the translation industry at play. It's definitely a game of patience for me, the freelance translator.
I DID work on two separate projects that, when compared, got me reflecting on the impact of the source on the outcome of literal translation.
The first job involved an informed consent form where literal translation was clearly the name of the game, from conception of the source to end product. The client, when creating the original ICF in French, took the time to choose clear, easy-to-understand words. It wanted to ensure that the potential participant would understand the text, no matter their reading level,* and that the translations in English (perhaps other languages??) would be as literal as possible, leaving only a small margin for generating differences in meaning. This job was a pleasure to translate, as a result.
The other was a back-translation for, what appeared to be, an excerpt from a speech or presentation. The way a back-translation works is that I read the translation (this one was from EN to FR) without the source and I translate it back into English. Afterwards, the agency and client compare the end result to see if the translation introduced any errors in meaning or omitted information.
After performing my translation, I read the source and quickly assessed that it was not meant to be taken literally, word for word. As I said, it was from an oral presentation, and the speaker had used colloquialisms; he/she had taken a very conversational tone. So, my translation, being quite literal as per the job’s instructions, sounded much more formal than the source. More like a scientific article. Luckily, there were, in my opinion, no major deviations apart from the tone. With this type of job, that’s what matters most to the client.
All translators know that literal translations have their place, but are not always necessary. Ultimately, the meaning must be consistent with the source. Aside from that, the client and agency will haggle over subjective differences.
* The client stated that the translation would be for a 12-year-old reading level.
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I accepted a job Thursday with a deadline of Wednesday morning. Monday morning arrived. I woke up to an email informing me that the client wanted to change the format of the job and no longer needed my services. This is what I mean when I say “be ready for the unexpected.” You can see an excerpt from the email on my Instagram.
We are freelancers; therefore, we are expendable when the powers-that-be, i.e. the client, want to change their minds. I could be at home paying attention to finite details to ensure consistency throughout this large post-machine translation job, taking into account how they want the final product to read so that they are pleased and ask for me again. Buuuuuut...
That effort carries no value when the translation agency, an intermediary between the translator and client, focuses on prioritizing the client’s wishes and forgets to look at the bigger picture (everyone involved with the project). By saying yes to the client, this agency put me out of work for a couple of days - I had turned down other jobs because this one filled my work schedule. Now that it’s Monday, I will likely have to wait until the middle/end of the week, when agencies assign the most work, before I fill my calendar again.
You have to decide how to respond to this unexpected change. Personally, I weighed a few options, which you will see below.
1. I could be mad at the agency, even email the PM to voice that anger. Nonetheless, they ARE compensating me, luckily, for the work I did do, and they were very professional about the situation, so they’re really not all that bad.
2. I could sulk at home all day and complain about not having enough income. Woe is me!
3. I could also take the day off completely from the translation sector (despite having scheduled a work day), then distract myself with trivial pleasures, like watching a movie, and therefore make no progress with my business.
4. The balanced option: I decided to write this post, catch up on paperwork and my budget, and hang Christmas lights.
So, you see, my fellow freelance translators, it’s all about how you respond to the unexpected on a Monday morning that will set the tone for the rest of your week. If you want to have a business, you work on the days you plan to work. There’s always something to do!
Above all, you certainly don’t get negative and complain because that, my friends, is letting the unexpected win and letting your business stagnate. Instead, as a colleague said, “Try to finish on a positive note of any kind.”
Find a way to learn from the unexpected, and use it as a starting point to take action that supports the growth of your business.
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It appears that my business is slowing down again thanks to coronavirus. In fact, this week, lots of businesses, and their employees, have seen work come to a screeching halt after another round of coronavirus-related restrictions were implemented locally. This is scary, y’all!
As in my last post about the impact of coronavirus on translation, I’d like to again answer the question, “How are you coping with all of this pandemic stuff?"
I find myself standing in a chaotic land amidst two trains of thought that battle regularly. It’s the "good versus evil" battle depicted in so many movies. To cope, I’m doing my best to reconcile the two and keep on living in the midst of that. Let me explain.
As a freelancer, much of the “evil” train of thought follows concerns about my livelihood.
The “good” train of thought revolves around a few key points.
After sorting through the above thoughts, I have decided to accept both sides of the battle. Sometimes, I will laugh with joy, and, other times, I will cry. In between, I must focus on coping in a way that is not hard on myself, i.e. I must be kind to myself.
To that end, today (see photos), I treated myself to a short road trip and high-quality coffee, then I visited one of my favorite parks and a friend.
I suggest you do the same, if you can. Turn off social media and the news, put on a mask, and find something that brings you nothing but joy, and go enjoy it. Whatever that looks like, as long as it helps you through this chaotic era in world history.
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It’s interesting how life progresses in fits and starts on every level. Of course, that's what keeps life interesting! As a freelancer, I've been noticing that my business is not an exception. That is why my blog and social media use have been stuck on pause.
Last week, a lot happened with my home (I am getting ready to buy/sell for the first time), which is major progress for me! As a result, I put my blog posts on hold, and now I find myself without a well-developed, interesting topic to discuss, but the need to write and share my experience is ever present.
The result: you'll find below a list of 3 interesting, scientific finds from my translation work last week. Maybe you'll "ooo and ahhh," too.
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Part of being a medical science translator is researching new medical concepts, treatments, diseases, techniques, etc. in order to accurately translate documents for clients. Below are a few things I learned while working the week of October 23-29.
What have you learned about recently?
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A quick look at those French words told me that the grafts would have to do with using different thicknesses/layers of the skin (loose translations: thin skin, half-thick, whole skin). So, I searched those English words combined with skin graft, and, sure enough, it turns out that grafts can be split-thickness or full-thickness, and that peau mince is a thin split-thickness graft.
As for pastilles, the more challenging term, the first clues guiding me to its translation were a French description and illustration. They told me that the process involved small squares of grafts distributed across the surface of the wound, as opposed to one full graft covering the entire wound.
So, by entering that English description into a Google search, I found multiple articles and websites informing me that this was called the Meek technique, or the modified Meek technique, of skin grafting. The pastilles were described as squares, postage stamps, patches, and micrografts. Therefore, my translation could take a few forms, depending on the context of the sentence:
Now, my personal glossary contains two new entries with notes to guide my work. I may not see this subject often, but I am glad I took the time to learn about it now, because it will save me time on the next project about skin grafts.
On a final note, I usually include links IN my blog post, but today, since there are many helpful resources, I decided to list them below. Just click on the description to open that link in a new window.
Good explanation of the Meek technique and more useful information
Company explaining the benefits of the modified Meek technique, describes them as postage stamp grafts
Here’s a concise explanation of skin graft types from the Wound Source
Link to the pdf of a book defining the two types, plus much more information