Translation is one of the professions that requires people to stay long hours near a computer. Endless hours that make our friends and family wonder “do translators have a life?”. Although the future may bring touch platforms and dictation software has been a reality for some time, the truth is that translators spend most of their time sitting in front of a desktop or laptop PC.
Colleagues ask us if translators have a life beyond CAT tools, terminology checking, quality checks, etc. And those in translation management seem to spend their time in conferences all over the world, travelling, researching, writing blog posts, thinking and preparing presentations or convincing companies on the importance of translation services for businesses. Of course, despite the push for automation in the way of machine translation and all sorts of tools that are supposed to make the life of a translator easier (read “producing more accurate translations”), translators still need to sit in front of the computer and think in order to produce translations, check other translators’ work, revise translations and proof-read them. This means countless hours looking at a monitor screen and living by a desktop PC, with a constant connection to the Internet.
I began a life in translation when modems let translators connect to translation agencies’ computers through a dial-up connection. Text files in WordPerfect were left at any time during the day or night. That was a good improvement from having to send diskettes by post. Translations were received by post or fax, and as there were no mobile phones in the early 90’s you had to stick around the house if you wanted to be available for work. Of course, the more sticking around, the higher the chances of never missing a call from your pool of translation companies you worked for. Spending a year in Spain in 1997 meant I lost touch with several translation agencies, even though the calls were diverted to my Spanish landline. There was CompuServe, there was the beginning of email business on those days. Not being as available meant I lost business. Times moved on fortunately and nowadays translators are based and live everywhere.
Nevertheless, yes, there is life beyond bilingual files and translation memories. Translators have a profession which often started as a hobby (interest in languages) and a real-life commitment and passion for languages. But, incredibly, translators have a life indeed.
So here’s some pictures to answer the question “do translators have a life?” A weekend in the life of a translator, away from the tools that make translations.