Common sense tells us that being a translator is, like any other profession, fraught with ups and downs, peaks and troughs, although our ups and downs are often intrinsically linked to linguistic competence or know-how, stamina and concentration. The state of one’s mind is just as important as the knowledge we have acquired. Hence, the translator’s, like the writer’s, need for routine, regimented schedules and ‘peace and quiet’.
In a sense, the work of the translator, viewed by some as something akin to the work of the tireless monk scratching away at his calligraphy, requires intellectual discipline, patience and staying power. The freelance translator, often working from home, may often be isolated from regular human contact and, again like the writer, is often engrossed in his or her own mental jugglery ‘battling’ with a text in order to control it and then tame it.
What is more, translators, thanks to their know-how and linguistic prowess are not unfamiliar with multi-tasking. Translators are known to hold down many jobs and (as a previous post suggests) have a wide range of interests, hobbies and pastimes, unlike people working in other professions. Add to this the fact that translators have to deal with the rigours of time management and planning and we are left with an image of a truly multifaceted professional.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that the translator’s lot is a difficult one and only a relatively small group have the pleasure of working in the field. Furthermore, because of the nature of this beast, people unfamiliar with the art (or craft) of translation do not quite understand the import of the work. Moreover, translators themselves are often not always clear on their own role. Is it a full-time profession? Do I want to do it all my life? Is it a calling?
Due to the fact that there are so many conflicting attitudes about translation from both within the field and without it is not surprising that this profession is not always regarded as ‘normal’ (whatever that may mean). What seems to be a pressing issue and most certainly interesting is whether translators themselves feel that they are ‘normal’ (whatever that may mean).