March 13, 2014

about translation, the most difficult work / part 1

Some say that translation is the most difficult work. I have felt its inherent difficulty because I have been a translator most of my career. I want to focus now on how other people make translators' work difficult.
I started learning German in 1988 and English in 1989, the year in which the East ceded Romania to the West.
English is easier to learn and I liked our English teacher better. Both that English teacher and my only German teacher are dead.
In 1992 I asked myself whether in high-school I should specialize in foreign languages or computer science. I have never enjoyed mathematics, I am a beginner in this field and I was unable to prepare for the examination on which my admission to high-school depended. Moreover, I liked the students from that class less than those with whom I studied, and their classroom was worse. But I am interested in software development. I know that this is unavoidable today, as most people use software; but I could have been a programmer had other people surrounded me.
I would have also preferred a better high-school, but that would have meant that my parents should pay for my living with some relatives. Leaving home would have been an important improvement.

Our German classes went actually so bad, that during high-school I thought that I should enroll for university studies of English and French. I remember my old German teacher urging me in 1995 that I should study German at the university. Our French teacher was knowledgeable, but he's been unable to teach me enough French to pass the examination for being admitted into a university.
I prepared for examinations in Romanian, German and English, and passed them in 1997. In 1998 I dropped out because they were teaching us much less than I had expected. Had I studied in Cluj-Napoca instead of Bucureşti, I could have met better people and completed my studies.

I tried several jobs. In 1999, a man complemented me on my communication skills and offered to help me find a decent job as a salesman. I called his home phone from a phone booth, his wife replied and I have never heard of him again. Maybe I called again and nobody picked up; she replied in such a tone that I thought that she was annoyed; I didn't want to beg for help and I don't spend time with people who cannot stand me. But this may have been a crucial moment in my life. It can be a good reason for me to try to improve telecommunications.
Then I took a lowly sales job and my manager asked me: If you speak English and German, why don't you take on a translator job? I did. I was accepted on the team of a then important translation agency from Bucureşti by Simona. I worked there for a year, and then I received my translator license from the Romanian authorities.

In 2000 I worked as a receptionist on the Helvetia ship of Viking River Cruises. My work was appreciated. I remember fondly moments like this one:
Two old German ladies came to the reception desk. (There were many moments in which I didn't know in which language I would be addressed. I was hired to speak German, English and French; and these were not the only languages that I heard on this ship.) They asked me for some information about the company and its cruises. I tried to answer usefully and gave them one of the old catalogs that were still at our reception. (My manager had indicated that these were not valuable and should have been replaced, but that I could hand them out.) After these ladies left our ship, in came our guests from a land trip, maybe around the city, and, as I gave a lady her room key, she told me with a nice look that our visitors had just asked her: Are all the people on this boat as nice as the receptionist?

I felt relieved that I was not translating anymore. I give here some reasons:
  • I wasn't paid much, and this was a way for the company owners to show their disrespect towards us.
  • I asked for a better chair because my lumbar spine hurt, and I was refused. My lumbar spine is still suffering and I should spend less time in a chair. Which therapist is going to help me treat my spine?
  • It's better to spend time communicating than deciphering boring texts for many hours, actually years.
In 2001 I worked as a technical writer at deuromedia, now a swisscom company. I co-operated with software developers; they were the company's main employees. I was appreciated here, too, but the company closed its technical writing department and in 2002 I became a freelance translator. I interrupted this activity in 2012.
In the second part of this topic I am going to write about how e.g. some translation agencies make translating more difficult.
How do feel about the three difficulties that I have just listed?