Recently, I have answered the question “What do you do for a living?” quite regularly. My first response is always:
“I am a translator.”
People say: “Oh, so you work with people lots, like on conferences?” No, no, I don’t work much with people at all. In fact, the only thing I really work lots with is my computer.
Because translating is converting a written text from the source language (generally the original language) into the target language. What you’re referring to is actually called interpretation, which is converting spoken language from one language into another.
It’s OK to confuse the two; everybody does (with the exception of those of us in the field – I should hope!) What I don’t understand is that once I have explained the difference, people seem to lose all interest. Have I offended them by explaining the difference, by educating them, broadening their horizons? That seems unlikely to me, but if I have, please know I haven’t meant for you to feel uncomfortable or silly for not knowing.
The silence in turn makes me uncomfortable. What have I said wrong? I would love to talk more about my profession, because I’m passionate about languages, I love what I do, I would like to talk more about it with you. I’m currently translating an autobiography as well as working on my own book.
Instead I say:
“But right now I’m in between careers, working as a cleaner.”
Immediately the interest is back. A cleaner, a real life thing everybody knows something about, because they all have cleaned something or know someone who has! Something tangible, something real life. For the record, we also have a lot to do with translations, especially if English isn’t your first language. But who knows that really? For fun, just look at the very first page of the next book you pick up. There might be something like this there:
Back to the point. Sure I have a funny story or two about disgusting toilets, which I can use to lighten the conversation with and potentially make you feel better about your ignorance. But it’s not what I love to do; it’s not what truly interests me; it’s not what I spent four years at uni doing.
Here’s the thing. It feels like I need to make you feel better, but you can’t summon any interest it what makes me feel good, you can’t celebrate my finally translating my first book?
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The English (source language) version of VERTREK is now available! Vertrek is a social autobiography written by Keith (Kees) Paulusse. As a young boy he migrated from the Netherlands to Australia with his father, mother and two baby sisters. They built a new life for themselves down under. Now, fifty years later Keith is telling his story. Vertrek is available as a hardcover, softcover, and ebook.
Towards the end of the year, Vertrek will also be available in Dutch. I am currently in the process of translating it.
Tegen het einde van het jaar zal Vertrek ook in het Nederlands verkrijgbaar zijn. Op dit moment ben ik het aan het vertalen.