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20-03-2017

Stick to what you know

Last week, I am sorry to say, I bit off more than I could chew. If you are not a native English speaker, you may be interested to know that ‘biting off more than you can chew’ means that you have taken on a something beyond your capabilities.

In my case, the unchewable item was an accounting operating procedure from an important multinational bank, which shall remain nameless, for obvious reasons!

I received an email offering me 10,000 words to translate and was sent a sample, which looked quite simple. The sample consisted of the usual boilerplate nonsense that I know how to look up in the International Financial Reporting Standards. I accepted the job and waited. However, when the file arrived, it was far more difficult than I had anticipated. It was full of actuarial concepts and technical jargon. What’s more, it was based on Spanish regulations, for which I could find no translation for reference purposes. The only translations I found were obviously machine translations, and we all know how lousy they are!

The customer had provided me with a memory, some glossaries, and even a couple of termbases, but after starting to use these reference materials, I quickly realised that the person who had created them had been translating financial documents ‘on the fly’, which I know is a very bad idea.

I abandoned the reference materials and set about finding some academic books and documents on the subject, and after creating a new termbase, I got down to business. It took me about four times longer to translate these wretched 10,000 words than it would take me to translate a normal text. I had to work all weekend and late at night. It was horrible.

By Monday, I looked like mad woman. My hair was sticking up, I had mascara smeared all down my face and my dogs where giving me funny looks.

Why am I telling you all this? Because this is not the first time that this has happened, and it is entirely my own fault. I should have opened the texts immediately and then emailed the client, explaining that the job was too technical and should be translated by a specialist. Then I ask myself, if I am not a specialist, then who is? I understood the texts and, although I had to spend a lot of time looking things up and checking that I was using the right jargon, I believe I did a very good job. But still… I say… never again!

Juliet Allaway

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