Marija Hladni, a teacher, translator and creative writer from Serbia, gives us an insight into the life of a translator, as well as a few words of wisdom for anyone considering a career in translation.
‘Translation is a craft,’ said one of my faculty professors, apparently with the heartfelt desire to belittle my dreams. Luckily, I disagreed, held true to my goals and eventually ended up as a young and relatively successful translator. I always thought that translation is an art, a beautiful way of ignoring the dividing differences between two cultures and letting them exchange ideas and learn from one another.
It is an unwritten rule that a translator should specialize in two or three areas of expertise, but in order to work in my country I had to adapt, so right now I am translating everything from scientific papers dealing with medicine or agriculture to legal documents and literature. Of course, I would like to be able to choose what I do, and hopefully in the near future I will be, but for now it’s sunflower breeding immediately followed by multiple sclerosis parameters.
Another thing that I have learned working as a translator is that everybody needs their translations finished yesterday – if there was a medical condition that prevented people from distinguishing between a phone and a time machine it would almost certainly be called translationitis. The ailment would be characterized by violent outbursts of frustration and disbelief on the subject’s part whenever his or her desire to ignore temporal laws wasn’t met with the utmost enthusiasm and a binding urge to comply.
So, if you are thinking about becoming a freelancer within translation profession, remember that in this line of business sleep is a rare pleasure you can indulge in only once you’ve managed to defy the laws of nature. I’m half expecting to be asked to finish a translation before it is even sent to me. The best way to deal with this type of situation is to stay calm and remember that people who are not translators naturally don’t know as much about the process as you do, so they really can’t be expected to know that you actually need time in order to do the work. Give them an estimate on how long it will take you to finish the translation and if it doesn’t suit them feel free to refer them to your wizard/mad scientist friend who might be able to help them out with their demands.