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Is translation boring?

Is translation boring?I recently stumbled upon a discussion about how some translations, particularly technical ones, are boring.

I have been thinking about this back-and-forth today. Is technical translation boring?

Few people dream of becoming translators. And the profession lacks the profile of being a doctor or scientist. And when compared to "real" professions like lawyers or social workers, translators come up short and risk becoming a commodity.

Does what we do make a difference? I know translation service providers that firmly believe that through their work, they have a positive influence on the world. In some fields, like our medical translation space, we make a difference in patients’ lives. Also, translators have the opportunity to work in different subject matters, using various technologies, all while interfacing with people around the world - what's boring about that?

But maybe reality is quite a bit more mundane. Most linguists handle two or three formats and types of work and don't regularly move from, say, A/V work to software localization to technical translation. Similarly, being in contact with clients and collaborators in different parts of the world can quickly lose its allure. And who hasn’t experienced the drudgery of the 500th IFU to translate or yet another stylistic "car vs. automobile" argument?

How about it? Are you bored to tears or have you found ways opportunities for making your job more exciting?


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16 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    Translation boring??? After 15 years I still have fun... AND I have been able to help people with medical issues more then once because through translation I knew nicer ways and devices for medical tests... Translation of medical devices and new medical therapies etc... they are awesome!

    Helen
    Tapani said...
    I was a bench scientist with PhD for years. Yes, scientists get more respect but you cannot eat prestige. I make twice as much now as a medical translator.
    Nic loves languages said...
    Our profession involves problem solving and is intellectually engaging. I chose translation out of a love of languages and that hasn't yet died.
    I supposed the area you work in makes a difference but if you don't like it, find a new area.
    I love translation so far.
    femmy said...
    I think translating in different areas helps to keep things interesting. I love literary translation, but once in a while I get more technical materials and enjoy the relief I get by facing the more straightforward work. Vice versa, when it seems I'm becoming brain-dead with the monotony of technical texts, I always welcome the little brain-gym that's required for translating books or movies.
    Coralie said...
    This statement is very subjective. I would say it can never be boring to you if this is your true passion. As far as i am concerned, I love languages and i love translating. Stressful and mind challenging yes! but boring? Never!
    Ana Garcia said...
    I agree with femmy. I love languages and I can not see myself doing anything else. A lot of people have asked me if I don't get bored working at home translating all day. Well, I wonder, what's so exciting about fighting traffic jams, going to the same office everyday and putting up with your boss's nonsense in a 9 til 5 job :) Can't say I envy any of them.

    I feel really lucky because I can make a very decent living out of this beautiful profession.
    Alejandro said...
    Few people dream of becoming translators. That's a very good remark.

    Personally, I find the translation profession to be moderately boring, but that's due to external reasons. I just miss the human contact.
    שני said...
    Primarily, translators help people understand one another, and that is one of the greatest abilities.

    My personal opinion is that every routine leads to boredom once in a while, but sometimes it also provides peace of mind. I think perhaps that with translating, like Femmi said - you can versatile your work. Now that's a bonus :)
    Jitendra said...
    Translation can never be boring for me. I am an engineer who became translator by choice. I find it very much interesting and intellectually engaging.
    pfm1500 said...
    Translation? Boring? Depends on what you are looking for in life. Also depends on how varied your assignments are. In medical translation you have the chance to demonstrate your ability to convey what the original text says in a way that the intended readership can immediately understand it. It's an education every time. Even with the same text over and over again (or with translation assistance software), you always find ways to improve on your wording. Never boring.
    workingathometranslatormum said...
    Yes, translation can be boring, but it doesn't have to be. After 17 years of localisation, it certainly is boring to make your way through the online Help for the 10th new Microsoft Office version - but the upside is that after so many times you don't even have to think about what you're doing anymore, your fingers type the words automatically. Those jobs are a good way to keep the money coming in. To keep my working life interesting, I try to broaden my specialities and to expand the number of source languages. This not only prevents total boredom, but I also see it as a way to be paid for expanding my knowledge...
    Kevin Lossner said...
    As a kid, I looked around at my family and older acquaintances and figured that work meant physical labor, some of it not so easy. The idea of being paid to read and write never occurred to me. So you could indeed say that I never dreamed of being a translator. My dreams were far too modest.
    Bill Reilly said...
    Actually, technical translation is the only kind that I find NOT boring. Technical translation forces you to dive into the innards of lots of different things to really learn what makes them tick.
    amaxson said...
    I find translation extremely interesting, and I'm not even a translator! As a DTP Specialist, the work is never boring. I'm constantly learning new things that a job in the 'regular' design industry would never force me to learn. Additionally, at least in the medical translation niche, I get to feel that I AM helping people, despite going to 'art school.' I often see products on shelves that I helped format, or posters at the Doctor's office and know that what I'm working on does make a difference.
    Additionally, getting to work with and 'meet' people from all over the world is extremely interesting.
    While the same is true for multilingual DTP'rs...none of us dreamed of formatting documents for a translation agency, it is a job that pays the bills. Once, a professor asked my class why we decided to go to art school and major in graphic design. Someone replied "I'm in it for the Benjamins!" and everyone laughed, because you don't go to art school expecting to make money. I replied "I hope to find a job where I can make art AND help people." While I might not be making 'art' per se, I am doing something directly related to my degree, helping people, AND have a fair salary.
    I think you do need to be passionate about what you do for it to be interesting. Case in point, when I try to tell someone what I do, inevitably their eyes glaze over and they just start nodding their heads. Perhaps 'interesting' is a relative term.
    David Dunn said...
    I have had a problem with translation sometimes being boring. I am not a full-time translator. Rather I found a really great family of industrial products that could help China with their air pollution problem and have translated 100 of pages of the literature of that company in order to promote the product. I am a native American-English speaker and the translations I have done are English to Chinese. I have someone look over the Chinese, but I am the main translator. The boredom problem really is distracting in that I can lose focus and end up spending way too long to do a project. What works for me is listening to music. (Classical for me.) I am a big talk radio listener but that is not compatible with translation. I can't both translate and concentrate on a talk radio program, but based on a very successful trial today I can evidently listen to music and translate. BTW one of the great things about doing my own translation, which was necessary for me in that I couldn't afford a real translator is that I learned the technology quite well. I'm not a real engineer either, but I did learn a lot just by translating, so I think it safe to say that translating material in your interes is helpful. Its also a good thing for translators (and most everyone else) to have a lot of interests in general.
    Tina said...
    I guess it would depend on what type of person you are. I recently graduated and have been working as a freelance translator for almost a year now in Canada, but I feel a urge in myself to be outside and work physically. I do mostly financial and technical translation and I don't feel I'm making a difference at all. The money is good, but now translating is harder and harder and I feel it eats away my inner energy, that I could spend to do something more meaningful, connect with people, work on a project. I'm contemplating my options right now because if I continue this way, I'll just have less and less "joie de vivre" and my skin will turn grey, I will slowly forget about my dreams and become bitter and boring, like most of the older translators I know. At least, it's a good profession because you can choose to do it part-time and mostly work on your own projects. But the only interesting translation projects are those I do for free because it's important that the text be translated. Otherwise, it's f***ing boring.

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