translator loneliness

Meet the translators: David and the loneliness of a translator

First of a series of articles which focus on the secret life of this secretive animal that is the freelance translator…

The translator is typically a shadow worker. However, today this blog gives the floor to one of those anonymous workers: David is a freelance translator who works with the translation agency Cultures Connection. Spotlight on a slice of his life as a translator…

Hello David. First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. As a matter of fact, and maybe this is not a bad way of starting this little interview: how is your schedule at the moment ?

At the moment, I can’t complain: I have enough work. But, having said that, it’s true that sometimes it has been a problem. It’s the case for all self-employed workers, I guess: there are ups and downs. But I can only speak for myself, I don’t know how the other translators cope with that situation…

The work of a translator is very often rather lonely… Do you suffer from this lack of contact?

Not really. I’m pretty solitary by nature … I am of those people who would give up a social gathering because I have a good book to finish… So in this sense, the work of a translator suits me perfectly. To be honest, in my experience of teamwork, the others tend to be more of a hindrance than a catalyst… This does not mean, however, that my professional life is similar to that of a hermit isolated in his little shell: I am in regular contact with other human beings…

What type of contact is it? In which circumstances?

Most often I contact them through emails or chats. With customers, of course, but also with « colleagues » : I have some colleagues with whom I regularly exchange information, share tips or tricks and warnings, colleagues that I help or that help me… I work alone but not necessarily in isolation… There is a real solidarity between translators.

What does this « help » that you’ve just mentioned consist of?

It happened to me once, for example, when I realized that I would be unable to complete a legal translation within the deadline and I asked a colleague to do part of it in order to get me out of trouble. This kind of system works even better in an environment where very often one has too much work and the other not enough…

Are there sometimes any moments when this loneliness becomes a burden? Or at least moments when you think that the presence of some colleagues would be most welcome?

For me, the worst moments that define the loneliness of a freelance translator is when I have to deal with a customer who causes problems when it comes to paying … It’s there, when I feel that I have to fight in order to get what is owing to me that, I have to admit, it would be quite nice to feel supported… But I guess that’s the price to pay for freedom and peace…

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This article has been written by Mathieu

Mathieu was born in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. After studying Literature and Linguistic Research, he moved to Argentina where he is currently a translator and a web editor.