Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday fun: lost in translation

The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Most of the time, I love my translating job, for all sorts of reasons. The act of translation per se is very pleasant to me, as I genuinely enjoy playing with words. Plus, I get to read about all kinds of fascinating topics. And my conditions as a freelance, home-based translator, are wonderful: the single fact that I can roll my chair back about 6 feet to get to the fridge is just one example. The view from my window onto the Canadian forest is another one, especially on those days the deer family or the pheasant family decide to pay me a little visit (which is often). And I'm not even mentioning the opportunity to wear jeans and a ponytail on a daily basis, listen to all kinds of loud music, do yoga or go for a run anytime I feel like it, and eat freshly popped corn off my desk. Did I say there is no commute, too? Like NONE? (Unless you think walking from the bedroom to the home office qualifies as commuting!)

But once in a while, I get this assignment that really, I am doing for the money, and for the money only.

You know, for example, that it's not gonna be good when you see the words microorganism and gastrointestinal in the same sentence.

I am also very wary when I receive dermatology documents to translate, especially when they involve illustrations. I don't mind translating the words, but do I really need to see those pictures of pus producing infections/parasites? Could we keep the visual to a minimum? Please?

Yes, this is what I've had to translate this week.

And I thought medical translation sounded like an uneventful, "clean and quiet" kind of career. Um.

What do you love about your job? And is there anything you could do without?


  1. If you are running a business and trying to make the most out of the opportunities presnted by globalization, using professional translation services is the only way to go.
    Luckily, I can't see machines taking over the jobs of human translators in the near future, as they have done with so many other professions (remember telephone operators?)

  2. You are absolutely right. I see bad translation all the time, and it is most likely done by people who rely on "translating machines" to do the job. It doesn't even come close to a proper translation. I can't see when and how machines could replace a good, professional translator. Language equivalencies and grammar rules are just too complex and full of subtleties. Then again, computers are apparently pretty good at diagnosing patients (medical and psychological conditions). Food for thought!