December 7, 2013
After last week’s culinary digression, I will go back to our usual subjects. Today, I will post a new comment on our relation with clients.
There are difficult clients. All freelancers have bumped into them. They are exactly those cases when we have to manage our patience well. But, as everything else in our lives, patience has its own limits and we must be alert not to ever lose our composure when from difficult some people become exasperating.
The most reasonable attitude is to keep a kindly but firm tone. We must not allow anyone to misinterpret than kindly is a synonym of submissiveness. A professional activity is only profitable when you have the respect of your clients.
Not only pleasant manners but tariff and working conditions depend on that respect.
It is not productive to work for a client that underestimates our professional qualification, the quality of our work, our price list and the time we need to seriously exercise our profession.
As I have mentioned before, if we find such clients, it is better not to have them than to end up losing our patience. 
 Cf. “Translation Tips: Clients (1),” October 8 2011 and “Translation Tips: Clients (2),” October 15 2011.
[Image: Scriptorium Monk at Work, engraving published in William Blades: Pentateuch of Printing with a Chapter on Judges, E. Stock, 1891.]
November 30, 2013
Nowadays, I am translating a novel. The plot takes place in China and it mentions various dishes from that country’s gastronomy. Chinese cuisine is a sum of various regional traditions.
This translation opened my appetite and yesterday I searched in my “dishes that I like to cook catalogue” and—from a list including 234 recipes that I have already prepared—I chose this Chinese Stir-Fried Seafood dish with king prawn, mussel, onion, bamboo, carrot, broccoli, soy sprout, baby corn, leek, pepper, mushroom, pea, lemon juice, sesame oil, ginger, curry, sugar, soy and oyster sauces, and rice wine.
[For information on my cookbooks translations cf. “Writers, Artists and Food Recipes”, March 15 2010; “Cuban Cuisine”, May 29 2010; “Cuban Creole Cuisine”, June 12 2010; “Recipes from Australia”, August 28 2010; “Cuban Christmas Cocktail”, December 25 2010; “Romans, Singers and More Food Recipes”, January 1 2011; “Healing Foods: Second Spanish Edition”, July 9 2011; “Speedy Suppers”, August 20 2011; “Soups & Sides”, September 3 2011; “Speedy Suppers: Spanish Translation”, February 11, 2012; “Soups & Sides: Spanish Translation”, February 18, 2012; “Fruity Puds: Spanish Translation”, February 25, 2012. Or click “Cuisine” on the Categories sidebar.
[Image: Chinese Stir-Fried Seafood. Photo from my “dishes that I like to cook catalogue,” March 9 2013.]
November 23, 2013
This is a personal issue, just like any other of each individual’s preferences, although there are some basic elements.
For example, since freelance translators stay at home, it is better to wear comfortable and cool clothes in the warmest months and warm clothes in the coldest, because that helps us to work with a more pleasant feeling.
We should also consider that it is convenient to stick to our daily meal schedule besides our necessary rest periods.
Our environment is as important as an adequate temperature. Good lighting, a proper level of silence, a comfortable chair where we can spend long periods of time working, an adequate posture of our body, creating the most favorable conditions to increase our concentration…
The list might be long, but it should be adjusted to our preferences and peculiarities.
The most important thing is to create an atmosphere that fosters our productivity to its maximum, while not sacrificing our sense of well-being. 
 Cf. also “House Rules: Daily Schedule,” September 14 2013; “House Rules: Working Hours,” November 2 2013; and “House Rules: How Much Work,” November 9 2013.
[Image: Albert Durer: Der heilige Hieronymus im Gahäus / Saint Jerome (patron saint of translators and interpreters) in His Study, 1514, engraving.]
November 16, 2013
I’m posting again about translating ads. It is an interesting subject because, frequently, I have had to debate with a client the wrong idea that translators must become ad writers when asked to translate this sort of text.
These are two different professions, with different contents and different price lists.
The key to this problem is the fact that advertising any product or service should be written independently for any particular public (target) in its own language.
On the other hand, it is very difficult for an ad writer, for example, to work in Spanish for a Spanish-speaking public and, at the same time, keep in mind that this text is going to be translated, and make the work of the translator easier when writing their texts.
That is the origin of that feeling of dissatisfaction we all feel when we face translated ads.
Some other times, translators are expected to solve the lack of ad writers in other languages. 
Cf. also “Translating Ads,” April 30 2011 and “More about Translating Ads,” May 12 2012.
[Image: Experts Inspecting the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, engraving published by the Illustrated London News, September 12, 1874, about the 2nd International Congress of Orientalists, which took place that year in the British capital.]
November 9, 2013
An overworked translator is not actually a productive translator. From six to eight hours a day are more than enough to reach a 2,000-word good-quality translation goal. Fatigue does not help to achieve the levels of concentration we need to work properly.
Therefore, I have put into practice a two four-hour shift system with lunch and a one or one-and-a-half hour siesta in between. Since I get up early at 6:00 am, that means that I start working around 7:00 and have already finished working by 5:00 pm. I also take five- or ten-minute breaks every hour to take short walks around the house, have a mid-morning cup of tea or coffee and rest my eyes from my PC’s monitor.
Two thousand words in an eight-hour work day, five days a week, are enough. However, it all depends on your productivity. 
 Cf. also “House Rules: Daily Schedule,” September 14 2013 and “House Rules: Working Hours,” November 2 2013,
[Image: Antonello da Messina: San Gerolamo nello studio / Saint Jerome (patron saint of translators and interpreters) in His Study, c. 1774–1775, oil on wood.]
November 2, 2013
Today, I am back with the subject of work plans that I have already commented a few weeks ago. 
If we all agree with the need and usefulness of having a daily schedule, it also may be useful to consider a few questions related to how to distribute our daily working hours.
The model that I have always used is based on the idea of establishing fixed hours to develop the day’s activities; particularly, those with a professional character.
As freelance translator, I work with a daily 2,000-word translation goal. To reach that goal, I keep a strict work discipline based on a fixed schedule.
I do not believe it is necessary to adjust to a pre-established model, like Benjamin Franklin’s, which was my personal source of inspiration many years ago. I think that every plan—daily work schedule—should be adjusted to each one’s personal circumstances from the time to start, the intermediate hours and the time to finish. I do not think it is necessary to get up at 5:00 AM and go to bed at 1:00 AM as Franklin used to do. However, I do believe it is convenient to take into account our most productive hours and dedicate them to our work.
Getting up very early might be positive for some and yet negative for others. Working from morning to early evening or from early evening to late at night might improve or hamper the work of others. The secret is to develop—and keep—that daily schedule that better suits our personal characteristics.
 Cf. “House Rules: Daily Schedule,” September 14 2013.
[Image: Domenico Ghirlandaio: St Jerome in his Study, fresco, 184 × 119 cm (1480).
October 26, 2013
So-called “‘house’ style books” play the important role of unifying elements in the work of authors, translators, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders and other editorial workers. Their contents include rules and regulations for the preparation of manuscripts to be published, such as typography, punctuation, and general aspects about writing, grammar, syntax, orthography, etc.
However, practically every language, countries with common languages, and every publisher have their own style books. This makes work difficult, precisely for those who are supposed to benefit from them.
That is why the policy established since 1978 by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and their efforts to develop and for the application of their “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” seem so reasonable. Maybe it would convenient to start looking in every country for a way to give uniformity to their different editorial-style rules and regulations.
[Cover: Document issued by the Cuban National Office for Standardization: “Edición de publicaciones no periódicas: requisitos generales” [Editing non-periodical publications: general requirements], Cuban Standard 1:2005.]
October 19, 2013
In the year 2000, I was asked to translate a series of short stories by Canadian authors Mavis Gallant (1922), Alice Munro (1931), Leon Rooke (1934), Alistair MacLeod (1936), David Cronenberg (1943) and Barbara Gowdy (1950). Those translations were published in a special issue of Casa de las Américas dedicated to Canada’s culture.
Alice Munro’s short story “The Found Boat” was selected by the editors to represent her work, and it was published in issue no 220 (July-September, 2000, pp. 54–61) of that literary magazine.
News of her recent award of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature was no surprise.
[Magazine cover: Casa de las Américas, no. 220, July-September, 2000.]
October 12, 2013
Travel guides have often been included among the requests we have had in the past two years. Usually, it is a revision of updates in previously published guides. That, in itself, is nothing uncommon.
However, what we have noticed in these past two years is a change of scenery; that is, countries and regions that are playing more important roles and substituting other previously more popular tourist destinations.
Somehow, it reflects the events that have been taking place in some of those destinations and that are affecting the security of travelers.
One of those events is the so-called “Arab Spring” that, since 2010, has displaced tourist interests from North Africa and the Middle East to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and, in the case of more distant destinations, to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hardly noticeable in the beginning, as months go by, it becomes more evident from the requests we are getting from our clients.
[Image. Albert Dürer: Traveler and Dog, woodcut, fifteenth century.]
October 5, 2013
Last Monday, we, translators, celebrated International Translation Day. And I wrote “we”, because practically no one else in the Spanish cultural sector seemed to be aware of this celebration. As a matter of fact, it happens every year, even though—just to mention one example—translations represented 24.2% of book production in the Spanish editorial sector in 2012. 
Unfortunately, although cultural exchange, diplomacy, circulation of information, international businesses and markets or tourism, among other important activities, rely much on translation and interpretation, there is little consideration for a profession that plays an important worldwide role. 
 Cf. “Estadística de la producción editorial en España. Año 2012”, Notas de Prensa, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, March 19, 2013.
 For further comments on this issue cf. my five-post series “‘Translator, traitor’? A Short Review of Translation in Spain,” May 21 2011–June 18 2011.
[Image: Albert Dürer: Der heilige Hieronymus im Gahäus / Saint Jerome (patron saint of translators and interpreters) in His Study, 1514, engraving.]