This & That ― Vignettes of a Professional Journey
A Column by Ines Bojlesen
I have been away from this platform for a quite long time. In April 2018 I started the text copied below, in an attempt to resume writing, but was again interrupted by… life.
Now, facing what dwarfs the past troubles, those words feel like a presentiment of what was to come.
Time to remove the cobwebs from This & That. The last 12 months have been challenging, crowded with positive and negative experiences.
It has been professionally disheartening to witness translation quality and compensation on a downward trend. Long-time clients opting for the lowest bidders, demoting their faithful and experienced translators to mere bench players.
I wonder what economic, social, national or international factors are contributing to the concerning decrease of demand for Portuguese language translations. But it is happening and lasting longer than after 9/11 or the 2008 recession.
I stay positive, because every crisis forces one to rethink and check one’s premises. It is so easy to let inertia prevail and to blame others for the hardships we face. If we confront difficulties with clear understanding, renewed and stronger energy takes over the existing marasmus and bright outcomes become possible.
I remember having survived bear markets in the past and barely making it through slow recoveries. I remember pulling my hair in despair when the pending-projects list was empty. I remember pulling my eyelids open when working 12 hours a day to meet daunting deadlines and going on to the next project without a break.
The life of a freelance translator/interpreter is anything but predictable. (Remember, I wrote this in April 2018!) If only we knew that the next month will be as good as the current one. If only we knew that the extra equipment we had to purchase to keep up with technology and new demands will indeed pay for itself.
Jugglers! That is what we are. We are either juggling large projects with tight deadlines or balancing our expenses, tossing out the superfluous.
2019 turned out to be better; good translation projects kept me happily busy.
And then… boom! We were hit by COVID-19 and our lives and livelihoods were turned upside-down and inside-out. We saw our work all but disappear, the urgency of the pandemic erasing or postponing many projects and assignments sine die―that is, indefinitely.
I remind myself that what I felt in 2018 has not changed: WE ARE THE SAME. We are jugglers, survivors and fighters. Whether sitting at our desks, working at the computer or interpreting over the phone, remotely or on-site, our skills are still needed. This is a good time to train for the new, refresh the old and prepare for an uncertain future.
Once again, in survival mode, we are called on to be resourceful, creative and inventive. As in almost every sector of society, we also need to adapt and find new ways. Free webinars and other online training sessions are offered, covering new technology, existing and new platforms, and new pathways to practicing what we do: translating and interpreting.
We must embrace the emerging resources, but with caution, with the preservation of our profession at the forefront of this trend. We want to help, at the same time that we need to earn our living. We cannot afford to work for free or even for lower rates.
“A healthy mind in a healthy body” is a wise saying but… not that easy to accomplish during our confinement at home. Let us remember to take good care of ourselves and remember that we are essential to and needed by so many: family, friends and… yes, clients!
Onward and upward fellow language warriors!
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