We all know the habits of some celebrities, rituals they follow religiously to the last detail, such as those performed by one of our most world famous tennis players: Rafa Nadal He is well-known for his habit of lining up the water bottles, of cleaning the service line with his racket and his face-touching – always in this order – left shoulder, right shoulder, left ear, nose and right ear, just to name a few. We don’t know if this ritual is the secret of his spectacular on-court performances, but we suspect that this is not an isolated case. We translators, as it happens, also have our rituals. It’s impossible to list the personal habits of every translator, but we can cover just a few.[Sharer]
The human translator is a craftsman of language, with the mission to produce the perfect piece of work and, as a result, looks for their own muses and sources of inspiration and sticks religiously to every habit.
The preferred time of day for translation is one of them. It’s quite common that as professional translators we find ourselves buried in constant translation marathons, but there’s always a particular time of day when concentration and inspiration seem to be at their peak. We could divide ourselves into two large groups: the early birds, the early risers for whom the piece and silence of the early hours of the morning help to increase productivity, and the nocturnal birds, whose creativity is heightened during the mystery of the night.
Workplace and posture are two key elements. Without a doubt, the image of translators at work would show them in a sitting position, always with a straight back, hands in the correct position, never with crossed legs and so forth for hours on end. But the reality is that we are perfectly imperfect and that, often, we will set to work in a specific corner of the sofa with our legs crossed and covered by our favourite winter blanket, in bed just before going to sleep or on the kitchen table.
Maybe we don’t have quite the same habits as the Majorcan tennis player, but we all have our self-confessed rituals before starting to work. Among these can be drinking a coffee or tea from our favourite cup, taking several deep breaths, exercising, watch the sunrise or sunset, lighting an incense stick, read or listen to the news, take the dog for a walk, etc.. The list is endless.
And now we sail into dangerous waters: the dress code. We translators are real experts in household glamour when it comes to getting dressed for work. Our wardrobe is brimming with sweatshirts, trousers that are somewhere between tracksuits and pyjamas and comfortable T-shirts – perhaps even with an inspiring message. All very clean and fragrant, just in case you were wondering. There are also days, evidently, when the diva within us is revealed and we dress to kill. Footwear deserves a special mention, and just as well that this is hidden during Skype conversations with clients!
We read our translations out loud, like an actor rehearsing a script, which can be considered as another translator ritual. Whether it’s a tourism translation, a medical translation, a legal translation or an audio visual translation, the Robert De Niro within us is always unveiled when we hear the text in our own voice and this, in addition, helps us spot areas for improvement.
But the moment where translators´ rituals reach their full glory is at the deadline. The “before” is usually a spiral of stress, but we are all different in the way we commemorate the “after”. There are those that open a bottle of wine to celebrate the accomplishment with family, those that haven´t laid their eyes on us for several hours, there are those that crash onto the sofa and get caught up in the TV soap operas – something we don’t have to think about – or those who immerse themselves in a forgotten hobby for hours on end.
So what do we translators do when we type the last word? There are as many possibilities as there are professionals. Do we type, letter by letter, in a theatrical fashion? Do we rise from our chair to stretch our neck and arm muscles in order to attack with more energy? Or do we call in our offspring to give our masterpiece its final brushstroke?
This is not an exhaustive list, it serves to remind us that as translators we are also artists, who look for inspiration in the smallest of habits and rituals, that help us in our mission to deliver the perfect project. And how about if we try touching our shoulder and nose several times before translating?