That Old Freelance Magic

Does this ever happen to you? While learning a new language, you come across a word you’ve never seen before.  No sooner have you entered it into your internal glossary than it suddenly seems to start popping up everywhere, forcing you to wonder whether it was there all along and you just didn’t notice, or whether there is some maleficent force in the universe playing games with your head by strategically placing newly learned terminology right where you’d least expect it.

Something similar has been happening to me over the past few weeks, ever since I wrote that post on the freelance interpreter’s summer. It seems that everywhere I turn these days, I see blog posts about freelancing. The most likely explanation for this is that the blogosphere has always been full of this sort of thing, and that only now that I have started making my own contributions am I noticing others’. Another possibility is that these other freelance bloggers, like myself, find the freelance lifestyle to be highly appropriate subject matter for summer posts. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.

Be it as it may, I’d like to share some of the more interesting posts on freelancing that I’ve come across this summer.

First there was a post by The Liaison Interpreter where he explained that there is virtually no such thing as a freelancer in Japan (Trust, freelancing and the Financial Dpt., July 22). As someone who lives in the land of autónomos, pymes and the S.L.U., I found this a very interesting read.

A few days later, Translation Times posted information on a freelance survey and encouraged readers to participate (Changing the Perception of Freelancers, August 1). Proof of just how slow off the mark I am this summer is that I didn’t read the full post until the survey deadline (August 9) had passed, so I can’t even do the same and encourage those of you reading this to contribute your replies. However, I do look forward to hearing about the results when they come out this fall.

The translation blog Want Words had Twitter all a-flutter in late July and early August, with the publication of two posts on freelancing that struck a chord in some readers and raised hackles in others (8 Reasons to hate freelance translation, July 29; When not to go into freelance translation, August 2). I won’t say which of these it did in me, but I will say that the author certainly appears to subscribe (like yours truly) to the school of thought that blogs are meant to provoke debate.

And finally, the author of Dolmetscher-Berlin posted a lovely photo of herself enjoying the good life and then proceeded to explain why being a freelancer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially in the summertime (Süsses Leben, August 9). I enjoyed this post, not just for the photo and the freelance talk, but also for the up-to-date insights it offered into the workings of an industry I was briefly involved in many years ago: script translation.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Usually, I take my freelance status pretty much as a given, and the above posts also seem to follow the line that a language service provider’s life is, practically by definition, that of the self-employed. But an innocent question asked by a curious friend at dinner last night reminded me that for a conference interpreter with my profile, there is, at least theoretically, another option.

“Why have you never applied to be a staff interpreter for the EU?” was the question. The one reason that trumps all others, and which basically makes the decision a no-brainer for me, is that I wouldn’t want to uproot my family of isleños and cart them off to Brussels. The long answer, the bulk of which I’ll spare readers but which my friend received in full last night, also includes the fact that I’ve never had a “proper job” in my life and I’m not entirely sure I have the personality type for it.

This brings me to a very useful checklist that AIIC has put together for young people thinking about becoming interpreters. It’s a short quiz entitled “Will a professional conference interpreter’s lifestyle suit me?”, and if you have been asking yourself this question, then I highly recommend you go through it and see how you fare. As the quiz itself indicates, there are no wrong answers.

At some point, The Interpreter Diaries will be looking in more detail at the relative merits of freelance vs. staff interpreting (and how one usually goes about trying to become one or the other). Personally, I reckon that as long as I have more boxes ticked off under the “freelance” column than under the “staff” one, then I am still doing all right. Of course, the big brother of the “mid-summer crisis” is the mid-life crisis, and one never really knows when that one might strike …

A ♥ for Language Blogs

A great idea came down from Translation Times earlier this week: why not have language bloggers share their favorite blogs with readers? With ideas like this, it’s easy to understand why Translation Times were ranked #1 on Lexiophiles’ 2011 list of Language Professionals Blogs. They even came up with a special name for the posts (see above) and are offering a free book for one lucky participating blogger (something tells me Judy’s MBA in Marketing had something to do with that last feature).

My contribution to this awareness-raising effort will focus on blogs that deal exclusively with conference interpreting. There are dozens that touch upon different aspects of interpreting from various angles, but I’m going to see if I can come up with a list of favorites that includes conference interpreting blogs only. Here goes …

1) BOOTHEANDO – This blog ranked #13 on Lexiophiles’ 2011 list and was the only conference interpreting blog to make the top 25. It is undoubtedly the standard-setter in the field. Its author, a staff interpreter at the CIHEAM, offers professionally-written, insightful, impeccably-researched contributions on all aspects of the field. What’s better, she’s a great communicator and born networker, as anyone who follows her on Facebook and Twitter (@blogbootheando) will know.

2) IN MY WORDS – This blog is written by a Brussels-based freelance interpreter for the EU institutions and a fellow AIIC member. She also happens to be doing her PhD in interpreting studies – a fact which can easily be seen in her posts, which show a depth not many can offer. The author’s take-no-prisoners attitude to the key questions affecting interpreters today, such as professional ethics, practice and standards, are of great use to anyone who wants to know more about these issues. I also find it personally enlightening to see how she manages to cover in a single post what it would probably take me dozens to address! (I am going to make “less is more” my new mantra). The Twitter handle for this blogger is @tulkur.

3) AVENTURAS DE UNA TRADUCTORA-INTERPRETE EN MADRID – This blog delivers exactly what its title promises: a personal, informally-written account of the life and times of a Madrid-based interpreter. Full of entertaining anecdotes and personal photos and videos, it’s always a good read. I only wonder about the “traductora” part, since I have yet to see any posts on translation… Twitter handle for this one is @aidagda.

4) COSAS DE DOS PALABRAS – This blog is the joint effort of two authors, one sworn interpreter and one conference interpreter. The latter is an assiduous reader of my own blog – which confuses me a bit, since as a former student of mine, she should know it all already! The posts on conference interpreting are complete and well-written. My only quibble would be that they are very few and far between! I would like to hear more from this blog. Twitter handle is @2paraules.

5) LE BLOG DE TIINA – Time to branch out a bit language-wise. This French-language blog is by another fellow AIIC member, this time Geneva-based, who is also a freelance interpreter at the UN and EU institutions. Although the author insists that her blog is “not just about interpreting”, it includes a series of informative and entertaining posts on the profession, complete with videos and photos. The posts, which I am told are also published in ASTTI‘s quarterly journal Hieronymous (although for the life of me I can’t find it online), are well worth the three-month wait in between.

6) DOLMETSCHER-BERLIN – This is the one blog I wish I followed more. It looks interesting and well-written, but since it doesn’t appear to have an email subscription function, and is also not on Twitter, it’s a bit off my radar. In my world, if it doesn’t show up in my inbox or Twitter feed, then it might as well not exist. RSS feeds just don’t do it for me. Must change that… Please, don’t make the same mistake as me and give this blog the attention it deserves!

7) TOLK FRANS – To round off my own language combination, I have to include a  blog in Dutch. So here it is! Funnily enough, it’s written by a Frenchman. Go figure. Anyway, it’s so well done that you would swear the author is a native. I understand he has a Dutch girlfriend – that might have something to do with it. The blog addresses a number of interesting issues for interpreters, such as passing the EU exams (which the author did just recently), learning new languages, Eurojargon… Again, I just wish the posts came more regularly. The author has just joined Twitter at @LeTolk.

8 ) DON DE LENGUAS – This is a radio blog that offers regular podcasts, many of which are on interpreting, so I think I can safely include it here. It’s produced by the Department of Translation and Interpretation of the University of Salamanca. I particularly like the interview with the author of Bootheando that they did as a surprise birthday present for her earlier this year! Twitter handle is @DonDeLenguas.

9) LOURDESAIB on YOUTUBE – This YouTube channel could almost be called a video blog. It offers a series of interesting, informative videos on conference interpreting as seen from every possible angle. New videos are added regularly, and are organized in playlists (on the European Parliament, the UN,  the European Commission, Interpreter Training, and more) to facilitate exploring. As a colleague of its producer through the professional association AIB, I know that the videos are extremely well-received among the interpreting community, which is why I would like to share them with readers here. The videos are disseminated via AIB’s Facebook page and Twitter feed at @AIBInterpretes. (In the interest of full disclosure, let me add here that I am the adminstrator of AIB’s Twitter feed and co-adminstrator of their Facebook page.)

10) And finally, in the “I -can’t-believe-there’s-a-blog-about-that” category, we have INTERPRETING EN POINTE, a blog about interpreting and …ballet! Apparently the author can’t decide whether to be a translator, an interpreter or a ballet dancer. I wish her the best of luck in all three as she decides!

And that’s it from me! I know I have missed some interesting blogs, but I have to stop somewhere. If you know of any more conference interpreting blogs that you would like to add to this list, please let me know. I’m always looking out for something new to read! And many thanks once again to Translation Times for spearheading this initiative.

Happy reading!