Translation can be an isolating, consuming kind of work. It requires intense, eye-to-brain-and-back-again focus, relentless concentration, and long projects that span weeks can sometimes feel like confinement, as though the computer is a cell and the mind in lockdown, hovering between the keyboard and a virtual focal point somewhere on the other side of the screen. Concentration is essential, mistakes or missed deadlines unacceptable. Not that I’m complaining. The work is absorbing and offers a satisfaction that must be akin to the reward felt on solving a crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
Of course, consultation is always possible. I have an in-house colleague whose input is invaluable when I need to run a specific choice of word, expression or phrase past her. But much of the time I’m alone. And it makes no difference whether I work in my office, with the view of the horses, kites and squirrels through the window to provide inspiration, or whether I try out a change of scene in a local café or pub. It’s possible to be in a room full of people and still be in the shadowy seclusion that is essential for full commitment to the work. No time to chat, except to order the Americano that lasts all morning and, partially drunk, goes cold because I don’t want to break my line of thought and remove my eyes from that mesmerising double column before me. The random messages from you, which slide swiftly, silently into the bottom right-hand corner of my screen, make me feel less alone, and raise a smile even when they obscure my view.
Not everyone shares my view. Working with a virtual partner or in a virtual team can present challenges: the inability to communicate in person may, without the visual cues provided by face-to-face contact, lead to jumping to conclusions, or misinterpretation of messages; some find it difficult to build the trust that might have arisen from social interaction; collaboration with someone around the globe can mean interaction at awkward times of the day or night, or delayed responses to emails containing questions.
I sympathise with these reservations, but there are ways to avoid these pitfalls. In an article entitled “Working in a Virtual Team” published on the MindTools website, in which some of the above concerns are voiced, the author offers a tip to help prevent misunderstandings. The use of emoticons, which some may associate with frivolous, teenage text banter, can forestall any offence that could be taken. Having experienced this, I have to agree. What might read like a reproach can assume a lighter touch if rounded off with a smile or a wink. The message is transformed into something that reads more like a friendly suggestion. Whatever your opinion, I’ve found that the best way to avoid misunderstanding is to take the time to write in full, without taking shortcuts. Be honest and explain in detail. This is usually met with a favourable response.
As mentioned in previous blogs, the translation industry has its ebb and flow. The warp speed hyper-intensity of September, October and November is now behind us, and if previous years are anything to go by, the next ambush will hit us in the last few days of January and continue until Easter. And so, with these thoughts in mind, I would like to thank all my virtual colleagues for a hectic but rewarding year and wish you a wonderful Christmas and a well-deserved rest.