Category Archives: Translation

Don’t be surprised if you hear I’m turning tricks for a living

I ran into one of my favourite high-school professors the other day and when I told him that I was a translator it knocked his jolly mood right out of him. Cuddling his beer, he wistfully reminisced about the high hopes he used to have for me. He went on to inform me that one of his former students was now working for a celebrity fashion designer and another was god-knows-where but filthy rich.

In an atypical moment of mercy, he offered me a chance to redeem myself and asked if at least I was translating movies. In retrospect, I should have said yes. But, having completely misjudged how the world perceived the merits of my chosen career, I didn’t. When I told him that most of my work involved scientific and technical translation, which meant he wasn’t likely to see my name on TV unless I messed up spectacularly, he aimed an accusatory look at my man and demanded to know if he was the one who killed my spark. (Yes, really.) My guy laughed it off while I was silently beating myself up for not having said I was a company manager; it’s technically true because I’m incorporated but it was too late for that now. I tried to regain some value as a human being in my beloved professor’s eyes by mumbling something about how I had great clients and my work was actually interesting and rewarding but he wasn’t buying it.

Then, with a pained expression he recalled how some even smarter girl he used to teach disappointed him even more bitterly. I learned that the poor thing had unwittingly knocked on his door with a copy of The Watchtower in her hand. You need to know that my professor is a vocal atheist – basically he’s a hate preacher but for atheism – and Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been his second-favourite target of ridicule, right after Mormons. So yeah, I’m not the biggest failure he could think of but I came pretty, pretty close. That look of sadness and disappointment in his eyes haunts me to this day. Okay, our awkward encounter took place only this Thursday but still. I’m struggling hard not to wonder if my friends and family are ashamed of me too.

Well, now that I have been informed what an utter waste of space people think I am, I’ve arrived at two resolutions. First, I’ll start charging more for my services because I desperately need to buy myself a large dose of self-respect. Second, the next time someone asks me what I do for a living I’ll tell them I’m a prostitute. In contrast to us translators, these professionals seem to command some respect, probably because they have the sense to charge for what the rest of us do for free. And I refuse to be seen as a loser again! I am deeply passionate about my real work but as it turns out, some passions are best kept secret.

Ancient rituals practiced by translators

(This story was inspired by something funny I witnessed the other day.)


Never ask a translator what a certain word means when you’re in a hurry. Just look it up in a dictionary and save yourself a lot of grief. Because a translator will never give you the answer straight away. Oh no.


You see, translation is the second oldest profession known to humanity, so perhaps unsurprisingly some rather elaborate traditions have evolved over the millennia and they are duly followed by translators to this day. If you for example ask your translator what any word means she’s obligated to perform The Barrage, a much-feared and little-understood ancient ritual. What will happen is this.


First, your translator will blurt out an intimidating number of possible meanings and translations in rapid succession & random order. Your heart will start sinking at this point. But it’ll be too late for fears and regrets…


When she finally gathers her composure and stops hyperventilating, she’ll mercilessly interrogate you about the context, the intended audience and whatnot. Without fail. Go ahead and try it if you don’t believe me. If she’s any good she’ll flood you with questions until you’re swimming for your life, vulnerable and unable to gather the strength to resist this already second unexpected assault from the otherwise probably quite gentle, mild-mannered, perhaps even a bit shy creature. Your desperate attempts to provide her with the context she demands might leave you divulging confidential information. Luckily she’s a pro and knows how to handle delicate stuff.


Then she *might* even tell you the translation you need but that won’t stop her from embarking on a lengthy monologue that’ll lovingly explore each possible nuance of every single translation she mentioned in her initial outburst, coming up with many others as she goes on and on and on. She’s sure to explain all those linguistic subtleties only translators are willing to discern or care about. No escape here.


(It’s your fault really. You should have known better than to awake The Translator. You see, translators do know a lot about words. And combinations thereof. If you give them the right cue they’ll surely show you just how much they know.)


Your muttered pleas and objections having to do with you *not actually needing to hear all that right now, your migraine acting up or your ears starting to bleed* will be ignored throughout the ordeal.


In the end you’ll be left standing there, quivering with exhaustion, quietly swearing never to unleash The Translator again and – perhaps for the first time – fully appreciating the true value of a good dictionary.


And then your translator will inevitably ask if there’s anything else you’re curious about. Shake your head quietly, do not make eye contact, walk away slowly. Do not ask anything. Failing to do so will result in The Barrage being performed all over again, this time with cross-references to your previous question.

Some random thoughts from an overworked translator/interpreter/PM

Too much hygiene is not good for you. Keep your brain unwashed.


I’m in favour of using gender-neutral language wherever it makes sense. When I’m feeling particularly brave I’ll even use singular they. Yeah, I do that.


I happen to know what a language register is. And most of the time I know which one fits best. But I reserve the right to have some fun with them when an opportunity arises. I’m a professional translator and I need to do this from time to preserve my sanity.


I’m more brave than polite and I’ve been doing my best to reverse that order since I was a teen. So please bear with me; I’m getting there. Slowly.


Sticks and stones. Holds true for me. Though I try not to presume other people feel the same.


Still, I do think people are becoming way too sensitive. It’s funny in a way. Apparently we can ignore the worst kind of things going on in the world.

(And the flat next door – not that I’m particularly in favour of spying on one’s neighbours, but come on! They beat their kid to death and nobody heard or knew anything?!)

But when we hear or read something that even slightly offends our sensibilities we’re suddenly in our battle mode. C’mom. Save your fighting spirit for things that actually do matter.


The best way to unwind after a day of being surrounded by folks too darn sensitive for your taste is to call some of your most politically incorrect (and probably quite intelligent) friends over and enjoy a session of gallows humour.


Follow your own advice. Or at least consider abstaining from giving it to others oh-so-willingly. Unless you really enjoy people laughing behind your back.


A wise thought I found in one of those e-mail forwards, “If something I said can be interpreted in two ways, and one of them offends you, I meant the other one.” Adapted for interpreters it would read, “If something your client said can be interpreted in two ways, and one of them might offend the other party, please do choose to convey the other one.”

The people you’re interpreting for will have enough opportunities to get into a fight if they want to; they don’t need your help with this.


If you think a language is not pretty, you might consider firing your translator.


A CAT tool is like a smart person who occasionally does something incredibly dumb. When you least expect them too. The problem is their blunders are much more likely to fly under your radar than those made by not-so-bright individuals (as perceived by you).


A word of advice to fellow translators: find someone to check your translation if you’re just learning to use a new CAT tool.


CAT tools are pretty much like high heels. They keep you on your toes for reasons already mentioned. With them you may seem more attractive to passers-by.  But only those who’ve tried wearing them will understand what a nuisance they can be.


A word to end buyers. Be nice to your language project managers and send them some flowers sometimes. You have no idea, and I mean no idea what they have to go through to get you your perfect translation (more or less) on time.


Pa še ena domaca: Boljš prav cajt zajebat kot pa prepozn prav nardit.

All about Eve

This looks a bit empty …


Actually it’s been looking ‘a bit’ empty for a couple of years now.


Apparently I’m not much of a blogger.


When I feel I really have something to say I usually say it face-to-face. A bit old-fashioned, I guess.


I think I’ll write something anyway. Too much blank on the screen is bad for the environment, or so they say. Or have I completely failed to understand what Google Black was about 🙂


Maybe I’ll even post some pictures; I have a garden now (yes I own real estate, isn’t this cool?). Tell you what – if I manage to grow some impressive vegetables I’ll boast them here. How exciting.


And I’ll probably post some photos of my cavies (that’s what the cool animal fanciers call their guinea pigs). As soon as I get them to pose.


Until I have some pics to show, here’s some text:


I’m a translator & interpreter (English<>Slovenian). A bit of a workaholic.


An early bird; I’m usually up and about way before 6 am. I’m five foot seven, rather athletic. When I’m not working, I’m probably reading. When I’m neither working nor reading, I’m doing my aerobics. I listen to opera and house (there are probably support groups for people like me out there). I sometimes write poetry and short stories. I’m into airsoft. Despite this funny array of qualities I’m quite sociable and for some reason people tolerate me rather well.


I’m good with computers. My best and at the same time my worst feature is my curiosity – which also makes me a good Darwin Award candidate. There’s no construction site too scary for me to explore in the night. If somebody mentions they know about a haunted house I’m on my way there before they got a chance to finish their sentence.


People say I’m a good cook. Which is a bit unexpected considering I’m a vegetarian (and most folks are not). My style of cooking is, well, opportunistic. Meaning I look around the kitchen, pick up some random items and combine them into something never seen before, yet very edible. This is a skill I acquired while I was a student. You know how it is; you have no money, there’s a can of peas and half a lemon in the fridge – and four people just called to tell you they’re coming over. And you still manage to make a dinner from the stuff you have at your disposal and a cup of flour you borrowed from your long-suffering neighbour. Yeah, this definitely IS a style of cooking; maybe I should write a cookbook 😀 Just kiddin’ 😉


Enough for now. As my latest pet paranoia happens to be identity theft you’ll just have to meet me in person to learn more.