Featured in Mox II Book: Family, friends and acquaintances of translators, who’s the real weirdo?

Mox asking for Chiara's helpHi again dear readers! I’m sure you’re aware that Alejandro Moreno has just released his second book of Mox’s cartoons. Since I was so lucky to be one of the translators who wrote an article for this book, I think this is a good time to share it with you. Here it is…

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Family, friends and acquaintances of translators, who’s the real weirdo?

I looked around and this is what I found out…

Mum and dad are on their way to grasping the difference between translators and interpreters, but they’re not there yet. Even though they’re very proud of me, they often say “She has a degree in Languages” (“Mum, it’s Translation”, I say, “But it’s easier to say it that way“, she replies) or that I’m an interpreter as “it sounds better” (…)

Then there’s my brother, who likes to double-check weird names of animal diseases against my knowledge since he’s studying to become a vet. Plus, he used to use me as a pocket dictionary while playing a Nintendo game he had bought in English as it was unavailable in Italian. The start of a localisation career there maybe?

However, my grandparents probably beat everyone, since they say I’m the queen of language learning, teaching, translating, interpreting and anything else. “She’s just awesome. You say you know someone more skilled? You must be lying!”
They’re also proponents of the theory that translators should be based in their home country – ideally in their home town – not just because they would do a better job, but because translators’ grandparents would suffer if they lived somewhere else.

And as far as my friends are concerned, I’m the true embodiment of a “living dictionary”. I’m the one who can understand the touristy menu translated into (poor, most of the time) English in any country, even if it features words you have never heard of. “And don’t you dare to be humble,” I can hear them say, “and admit you don’t know what a random sign on the road means or what those people two rows behind you on the train just mumbled!”
And since I AM a translator, my friends believe I’m an all-round all-aspects all-whatever language expert, so I can’t disappoint them!
A quick note on friends who are translators: we make a wonderful support group and each of us plays the aggrieved party in turns!

Then, for random people, you have to be a literary translator. They seem surprised to discover that IKEA instructions do not grow like crops, but are produced by someone. So far I have experienced four reactions to the ”I’m a translator” statement:
– You must be soooooo good (see the grandparents’ approach to translation)
– What you do is so useless (there’s Google Translate)
– User manuals are usually translated so badly (then hire me, I’m good!)
– What does that mean? (oh dear)

And how can I forget translation agencies…? For the nasty ones, you are just one insignificant translator (among way too many). You hardly ever have a name, but your friendly nickname is “Dear Translator”. How lovely and personal. But for nice translation agencies, you are THE ONE! You’re so special that people just write you frantic emails starting with ‘Hi + problem to be solved’. But I adore being “the one”.

And finally, we have the translation professors, who can also be divided into two categories. Good professors (try to) prepare you for your future career as a translator, and hopefully they’ve been translators for a while themselves (even better if after the introduction of CAT tools). If not, they do their best to understand your hocus-pocus of mysterious acronyms and catastrophic crashes. Negotiating, rates and networking sometimes create a blank look on their faces, but their smile is reassuring – and you’ll want that smile to be with you the first time you get an urgent project.
And then there’s the bad translation professors… CAT tools? You probably mean the Creative Art of Translation tools! Terminology management? No way! And don’t even dare to ask the source text for your assignment in digital format. I love photocopying, especially if words are barely legible afterwards!

This is very empirical research, but it’s all true 😉

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That’s it! And thanks to the editor Justin Bearden who turned my idiom into intelligible English!

I just got my book and can’t wait to read other people’s articles. In the meantime, if you have encountered other ‘weird entities’, please share it with a comment! 🙂

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About Chiara Vecchi

A blogging translator working from English and German into Italian. You are more than welcome to visit my blog https://squirreltranslations.wordpress.com!
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7 Responses to Featured in Mox II Book: Family, friends and acquaintances of translators, who’s the real weirdo?

  1. Love your article Chiara, great job 🙂 Can’t wait to read it in print, my book is on its way!

    • Hi Catherine and thanks for your comment, I’m so happy you like the article! 🙂 My book arrived on Friday, but I’ll probably keep it as a weekend treat after a really busy week. Looking forward to enjoy your article, too!

  2. Nelida K. says:

    Congrats Chiara, laughed myself silly reading your article. Just about everything (but the parents and grandparents, who are alas no longer living) rang a bell with me!
    Just a small heads-up: in the following sentence,
    “A quick note on friends who are translators: we make a wonderful support group and each of us plays the plays the aggrieved party in turns!”
    there seems to have been maybe a printing typo, and it should read “each of us plays the aggrieved etc etc” and “the plays” should be deleted. Am I right? Thought that maybe you would want to correct it.

  3. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Dec 10-16) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

  4. Hayley says:

    Hey Chiara, I’m a bit late reading this, but congrats on getting your article published! Enjoyed reading it – a lot of it rings true! Hayley

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