at a glance.
It is common knowledge that lorry drivers in the EU have to take a 15-minute break every six hours. Business psychologists tell managers that people whose work involves a lot of brainwork only have about 6 hours of productive time per day. Trying to concentrate for any longer will turn against you and this is where one of my favourite German phrases comes to play: "nach müde kommt blöd" (once you're tired, you make really silly mistakes). Your brain is clever, it knows that exhaustion is unhealthy so it simply refuses to continue working and you start to make mistakes. Legal translations are complex and require our full attention. When we are translating a court decision or a complex contract, we are absorbed in the material and require a high level of concentration over many hours. So if you ever phone a translator and you feel they are not really listening to you, it's because they are totally absorbed in their work – my husband sometimes thinks I am in a trance....
The deadline set by the court is looming and you still have to get the document translated? How quickly do you need your translation? We often receive translation requests with the comment “Please deliver as quickly as possible”. This does not give us an accurate indication of how urgent the translation actually is. Does it mean your deadline is “tomorrow” or “next week” or even “in two weeks”? We are used to processing great amounts of text in a short period of time. And our clients know that we will do our best to make even the tightest deadline work. At the same time, we also place importance on maintaining the high quality standards that we have set ourselves. Working under high time pressure is part and parcel of our business. We are quite aware of the fact that we are one of the last steps in a long chain of processes before the deadline. Therefore, we always try to find a viable solution together with you. If we know that the requested deadline is just too tight and that no matter how hard we try, we can’t guarantee our quality standards, then we speak with our client to decide which files or paragraphs should be prioritised, or if we should just translate excerpts, etc. If it is really impossible to complete the order in the time specified by the client, we may refuse a translation order.
One major topic that we are consistently faced with in the 2020s is gender neutral language. And what a challenge it is! How often have we been faced with annual reports talking about their chairman and how often have we been tempted to translate chairperson or nowadays simply chair. In fact to be honest, we do this, because hey, if translators don't try to change the language who will? Gender-neutral language reduces bias and stereotyping and promotes social change. In fact there is an official document by the European Union with guidelines for gender-neutral writing: here is the English version: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/151780/GNL_Guidelines_EN.pdf
Every translator has their own golden rules, their own list of dos and don'ts. One of the first golden rules we set up when we founded our business together was to make sure that we could explain the reasons for our choices for every linguistic decision we made. This is something we do every single day during proofreading. If the proofreader doesn't agree with the translator's decision on how to translate a sentence, they discuss why. You sometimes see us sitting at a desk, two people staring into a screen and talking about one single sentence for a good twenty minutes. Probably not the most lucrative sentence to have translated, but there is a feeling of joy when the client calls to discuss exactly this sentence and we can account for our decisions. So much more satisfying than just saying "Well it sounds better"....