Sunday, 7 November 2010

Siobhan Soraghan: How to achieve self-sustainability

Following Siobhan Soraghan’s well-received paper at the ITI Conference in May 2009 in London, ITI’s Western Regional Group was pleased to welcome her to its main professional autumn event on a chilly, but gloriously sunny day in the pleasant surroundings of the Esther Parkin Residences on the Bath University campus.

The best approach to achieving a healthy work-life balance

In the introduction round it soon became obvious that almost each one of the 13 workshop participants believed that something was not quite right in his or her approach to achieving a healthy work-life balance. As my own work-life balance sometimes goes worryingly off-course, it was in fact one of the most relevant workshops that I have ever attended.

The message sent by Siobhan essentially boiled down to this: Translation, or in fact any self-employment activity, is something that obviously we pursue to earn a living and also something that we tend to enjoy. However there is simply no point in slaving away at it, especially if it is likely to have serious consequences for our health and well-being in the long term. There is a high chance that the knock-on effect of hardly ever allowing ourselves time off work and other daily commitments will be burnout at some stage, maybe even followed by chronic fatigue or depression. The emotional effect of this would be to wholly lose the motivation to work, which – if it does happen – can be an extremely upsetting experience. Burnouts tend to come about very suddenly, typically following prolonged periods of operating on adrenaline, without much rest, at performance levels close to 100%.

Siobhan offered plentiful, hands-on advice and demonstrated an excellent ability to help us examine our individual circumstances more closely. A common problem among freelances is that we tend to take so much pride in what we have achieved in terms of building up our businesses that we often take on too much work. The consequence of this is that we become wedded to what we do, maybe without even realising it. Pride in itself is not a bad thing, but rather very often part of the strategy for success. However, this strategy may need modifying, for example by including other aspects of yourself that have not been given a voice yet. There are, in fact, several personalities in every person which need to be valued, developed, and brought into balance.

Siobhan once again proved that she is a warm, persuasive and very engaging speaker, not least because she always blends her personal experiences with intelligent ideas, useful insights, and lots of food for thought to take away and build upon. She left us feeling motivated and determined to bring about changes in how we set our priorities and balance life. I, for one, have decided to allow myself more time off in general, keep up the running and cycling, and start playing the piano more regularly again!

Siobhan Soraghan is founder and director of Active Insight Ltd. She coaches and trains leaders and senior teams and runs regular seminars on positive politics at work, collaborative leadership, work endurance/self-sustainability etc. around the UK, working both in corporate environments and with individuals.

(This blog post is an abridged version of my write-up on the workshop, which will be published in the January issue of ITI Bulletin.)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

"Translations", a threatre production by Brian Friel

My husband and I enjoy attending theatre performances by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School has an outstanding reputation for producing excellent actors and actresses in theatre, radio, TV and film. It is one of the most selective drama schools in the world as only 14 out of, apparently, around 2,500 applications are accepted each year! Successful applicants complete a 3-year BA acting course in cooperation with the University of the West of England (UWE).

Any of the plays, I find, is usually a must-see. Evenings out at the theatre are always special, also because what happens on the stage is in marked contrast to my own everyday work life. I am, in keeping with my personality, not usually required to rely on any vocal or physical abilities as translating requires a completely different skill set.

The act of translation – where languages clash – can be fraught with difficulties.

It was a foregone conclusion that finding out about an upcoming play actually entitled "Translations" had me eagerly anticipating the performance, which was put on at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. "Translations" is a three-act play by Irish playwright Brian Friel written in 1980. It is set in Baile Beag (Ballybeg), a small village at the heart of 19th century agricultural Ireland.

[It] is "a play about language and only about language", but it deals with a wide range of issues, stretching from language and communication to Irish history and cultural imperialism. (Source: Wikipedia). The British Army is preparing the first Ordnance Survey map of Ireland, which involves anglicising all Gaelic place names. New national schools are established to impose English as the national language. For this particular play the students, acting excellently as usual, had even been trained to reproduce the Irish accent

From a translator's or linguist's point of view, it was particularly intriguing to see how language was used as the central dramatic element in the play. It was used to expose typical communication problems where different languages – in this case Greek, Latin, Gaelic and English – are involved.

The play brought out very vividly how cultural or language barriers can seem insurmountable. The character of Owen, who acts as an interpreter in the play, demonstrated how the very act of translation – where languages clash – can be fraught with difficulties, and thereby present numerous challenges. It highlighted how important the capacity to communicate and to be understood is, and how its loss can result in conflicts with grave consequences.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

“Meet the client” ITI training event at Bath University

On 19 March 2010 practising and aspiring translators and interpreters gathered in one of the lecture theatres at the University of Bath for an informative, well-attended and successful CPD event. It was facilitated by Dr Suzanne Kirkbright, ITI’s Education Officer, in the presence of Pamela Mayorcas, ITI Chairman.

The morning sessions featured representatives from the translation industry, who focused on how to find and keep top clients. Clare Suttie from Atlas Translations Ltd. started off on the topic of professionally handling complaints about one of your own translations. Clare suggested that generally a good way of avoiding such awkward situations was to get a good brief from the client beforehand. The brief should contain information regarding the intended audience, and whether there are any websites, reference materials or glossaries with preferred translation terms to refer to. Kirsten Hemingway, MD Hemingway Corporation, explained how to create and maintain efficient networks. Networking is usually aimed at finding work, getting advice and also giving advice yourself. The latter tends to build your credibility and is likely to bring you referrals and of course personal satisfaction as well. Interestingly, networking opportunities often crop up when you least expect it. Anne James focused on the prerequisites of becoming an interpreter for Bristol City Council Interpreting & Translation Services. Jonathan Nater from the award-winning Wessex Translations Ltd. afterwards opened the floor for any burning questions from the attendees, including how to approach potential clients for the first time and become a translation company's regular supplier, as well as the assignment of work projects in general.

After the lunch break, which provided good networking opportunities, we continued to think about “best business practice”. Judy Heminsley, having worked from home both as en employee and running her own businesses, was ideally placed to talk to us about work-life balance. Judy had some valuable suggestions in store for us, such as how to deal with interruptions. Having two separate phone lines for example, one for business and one for private purposes, is something which I certainly find very useful myself. Judy also advised us to set ourselves time boundaries and find out how long our concentration spell is. Consequently, breaks can be planned in advance more easily. I already consider myself an experienced home worker, but I could definitely see some areas for improvement in my case.

The importance of not only selling yourself as a translator, but also as a person was highlighted in the session run by Andrew Mann, employed as a project manager by Syntacta Translation & Interpreting until very recently. You can build your marketing activities on the principle that, despite all the automation in the translation industry nowadays, people still buy from people. In the end, the cornerstone of your business, apart from how you approach customer service, are the relationships that you have made. Andrew's blog for Ways with Words, where he now works, is also very worth a read.

Time was flying, but before we all went away from this informative, inspiring and well-run event, there was room for general questions and answers. Among the issues raised were technological changes. It was noted that the role of the translator in the future would change drastically due to crowdsourcing and machine translation. Machine translation in particular may be expected to necessitate more post-editing rather than actual translation. Although future translations produced by machines may well be usable to some degree, they will still and always have to be looked at by human translators afterwards. Human translators are therefore unlikely to ever run out of work - a reassuring statement, which concluded the day.

I have written a more detailed report on this event, which will be published in the forthcoming issue of ITI Bulletin in May.