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Nothing in this world happens in true isolation. If you’re noticing a development in some aspect of the world, if you pause for a moment and think about it, that development is causing ripples that are spreading outward from the centre and disrupting everything else. In fact, in recent years I’ve noticed the rise of the word disruption in business-related circles. Being a language translation professional and a general Word Nerd means I’m always paying attention to the new words and new uses for words. ... Continue

I will not be breaking any new ground here when I complain that an obsession with lower prices is slowly strangling the translation and localisation business. Certainly I won’t be the first translation services professional to say this, and we’re not even the first industry to worry about it. It’s simply coming to a head as the global economy, Internet technology, and simple commodification of translation services conspire to press down prices. ... Continue

Ah yes, the glamorous freelance lifestyle. While I am a steadfast defender of the freelancer life and way of doing business, I can’t claim that it’s completely without problems and challenges. There are, in fact, several sticky situations that only translation services professionals can possibly understand and relate to – all related to mismanaging your business in ways that adversely affect your income and financial stability. ... Continue

Translation professionals like myself are chatty folks, and we love to wax profound about the future and what it holds for our profession – usually while secretly planning to be retired on a beach somewhere before that future comes to pass. Until recently one of our favourite subjects to speak about was Computer Assisted Translation and the coming Armageddon of The Robots taking all of our jobs. Now that the robot apocalypse seems to be further off than ever, we’ve got to find something else to sound smart about (and believe me, sounding smart is harder than it seems). ... Continue

The funny thing about life, I think, is that while I feel more or less the same way I felt ten years ago – an ache or twinge here there aside. In other words, I don’t wake up and think, gosh, I’ve evolved and matured and grown as a person and a professional! No, I feel basically like the same man who started down this road of translation services all those years ago. The only difference is experience and confidence, really. ... Continue

One thing you keep running into when you work in translation is the near-infinite niches within language. If you think of a language as a box, there are just endless smaller boxes inside of it, within which are small pools of language with specific sub-rules. For example, one small box inside of language is for the legal world, and contains a lot of specialised vocabulary and terms you won’t find in any other box. Another is the slang of a specific geographic region that is totally unlike the slang of other regions. ... Continue

I’ve sometimes heard translation professionals like me likened to compilers in computer software. A compiler in computer programming takes the ‘high-level’ language – a language that is very abstracted from the inner workings of the computer, like BASIC or C++ – and translates it into machine code. This is because machine code is very tedious and difficult to work in directly, comprising filling registers with values that then affect logic gates. Rather than learn how to speak to a machine, programmers instead learn an abstract code that works like a constrained language, making it easier for them to work. ... Continue

In my more whimsical moments I like to imagine the worlds of interpreting and translation as if they were in the universe depicted in the old Hollywood musical West Side Story: Two gangs of dancing, singing combatants who burst into choreographed fights when they meet. ... Continue

Globalisation is nothing new – in some ways even the smallest small business is a global concern these days. I know I’ve personally used Google and the Internet to track down oddball items that are only sold in small shops in distant locations – I once found a wool cap my Mum fancied in a movie in Australia and called them and made arrangements – painfully and slowly – to ship it to me. This store had made no effort to market itself around the world, but people still found it. ... Continue

Oh boy, literature. Second only to poetry in its difficulty for your brave and adventurous translation professional, literature both modern and classic is a hornet’s nest of bizarre decisions stemming from its artistic nature. After all, fiction doesn’t require straightforward communication, and many authors will bury symbolic details throughout the work. This means that you can be a very skilled language translation expert and understand every sentence of a work of literature and still walk away with only a feeble understanding of the work. That’s not just a problem in other languages, either – you can read a work in your native tongue and come away with just a superficial understanding of it, after all. I’ve read Ulysses by James Joyce several times and still don’t think I’ve gotten more than a surface comprehension from my efforts. ... Continue