Tuesday 1 December 2009



Any self-respecting translator will identify with the problem: you have more than enough on your plate when the phone rings and the client asks if you can just do a small job for them: “It will only take half an hour, we need it back by the end of the day, I'm sure you can fit it in somehow.” You try telling them, No, my diary is bursting at the seams. But you don’t really want to let them down (translators are good people after all). You think, okay, I’ll work through my lunch break, I’ll put off that shopping trip until tomorrow or I’ll give up my forty winks on the settee after dinner.
You put down the phone and start thinking, “Heck, why on earth did I say yes, I’m up to my eyeballs in work. I didn’t really need the job did I?” But we translators are gluttons for punishment.
I wonder whether a painter and decorator working on a large project would suddenly down tools, jump in the car just to touch up a bit of paintwork on a window frame ten kilometres down the road. Somehow, I seriously doubt it. He’d make a call-out charge as well. I make the allusion because the ten kilometres is the distance my brain sometimes has to travel to switch from one job to the next. One minute I’ll be toiling away on a legal contract and the next I’ll be asked to translate a photo-caption (with no photograph attached so no context either). And in the end the half hour becomes 60 minutes…
So next time you decide to appeal to my better nature, just be aware that I’m missing out on a slice of my life that I’m never going to get back. Thanks for your understanding.