I went to college and studied to become a translator. I don’t know about you, but during my translation program, I never took any accounting classes or marketing classes or learned how to even find a translation client.
The program was good, but there left a lot to be desired for those of us who hoped to make it in the real world as freelance translators. Learning how to do translation in Spanish is one thing, but learning all those other things since becoming a freelance translator has been daunting.
As I’ve worked to be more proficient in those other areas, I have had a ton of questions. I’ve asked my fair share of questions of all sorts of people, all with the goal of trying to better understand how to run my business.
As a translator, one of the things I’ve done is to refine my approach when trying to find answers to my questions, whether those translation questions are translation-related or more business-related.
To illustrate that, though, let me describe an experience I had when I was struggling to find an answer to a translation question.
It’s not everyday that I get one of those “ah-hah” moments while working, but a while back something happened stopped me in my work for a minute and really made me change the way I approach looking for answers.
I had been working on a translation throughout the day and was finally getting to where I could wrap it up. However, as I was getting to the end, I ran across a term that stumped me.
And it wasn’t one of those phrases that comes to you after a couple of seconds. This phrase literally blocked my brain and I couldn’t come up with the translation.
I was baffled.
“How do I translate this?,” I thought.
And you know what happens when you get stumped on something and your mind is working furiously to get the answer. Yep, the answer starts to become more and more elusive and you can feel it slipping away.
That’s the worst.
So here I was, stumped on the translation and getting further and further away from the answer.
OK, so the answer wasn’t going to just come to me, so I decided it was time to check my stable of translation in Spanish resources.
I looked online and Wordreference.com, a great forum for Spanish translators, by the way.
I looked through some of my secondary online sources and didn’t get anywhere.
By this time I was getting desperate and decided to turn to my hard copy Spanish-language resources. I don’t pick those up very often since I can find an answer to most any translation question online, but I keep them for just this situation.
Guess what? Yeah, nada.
OK, so what do you do when you’ve exhausted all your go-to resources and you still aren’t anywhere close to where you need to be?
Time to phone a friend.
I got in touch with a friend of mine and told him my dilemma.
“Dude, I’ve got this translation in Spanish that is driving me crazy! You’ve got to help me out.”
Translation Tip: If you don’t have a friend or group of friends that you can call when you run into problems, get one now!
I showed him the original (the source) and he looked at it for probably no longer than 15 seconds before he told me the correct translation.
Yeah, I was stunned.
Here I had been struggling for the right answer for a couple of hours and hadn’t come up with anything. But he knew the answer in a few seconds.
It was obvious. The translation, that is.
When the correct translation didn’t come to me in the first few seconds when I was going through the translation, I subconsciously started building up walls in my mind which prevented the translation from getting to me. And the more elusive the translation got, the harder I made it to see the obvious translation that I should have seen right in front of me.
Instead I was off looking for a more complicated solution when I didn’t even need to.
Phone a friend
Take a break
So what does that mean for us as translators?
Well, as translators, we often have so much stuff to worry about and when we run into difficulties, we spend too much trying to come up with complicated solutions when the answer is right in front of us all along.
Whether it’s trying to find new clients, getting paid, finding new contacts, or even trying to find that perfect translation, stepping away for a moment and then looking at the simple solution that is right in front of us is often the best way to go.
When I’ve been working on my translation in Spanish or any aspect of my translation business, following this method has definitely helped me keep everything under control.