The difficult job of the translator

Being a freelance Chinese translator can often seem like the ideal job: to work where, when and how you want (even in your pajamas!), To independently manage your own schedule, read books in the preview, make a living comfortably sitting at the computer, take on an exciting and interesting assignment every now and then. All things are very true. Yet being a Chinese translator is not a perfect job, sometimes, life can be really tough. Here are the reasons:


difficult job of translator


1) Work where you want, type from home, it’s a nice advantage, but what about it when you have visitors coming? Or when your family are at home watching television or listening to music at full volume and you simply could not concentrate on your work at all times?


2) Working alone, yeah, that’s great, being able to organize your time, but we must also organize our social life. Avoid distractions but still know how to set limits. In short, we must not be distracted but not go on indefinitely. You must learn at some point to turn off the computer. Only then will a Chinese translator have a “normal life.”


3) The challenges to overcome never end. To work with a new publisher or a Chinese translation agency there will always be a translation test to be faced. It is comprensible. But, while having done a great job, and your potential client said that the test goes well, however, it will in fact always be someone with more experience or with lower rates who will be preferred.


4) The payment is another sore point. The majority of customer calls the classic job done “for yesterday” but payments are often late in coming, especially when it comes to private customers. So here you get to a certain point where you need to request your hard-earned payments perhaps for several months. Some are more skilled in these things and others not. Anyways, it is a real hassle.


5) The challenge of translation in itself is, for most of the time, really exciting for this job for who does it with passion. Sometimes, however, the task of bringing a concept to Chinese from English becomes really difficult. The linguistic preparation is not enough, for example, to translate puns, slogans or funny lines, it needs is a great creativity and a deep understanding of the two cultures.


6) And anyway, to be a Chinese translator, not just “knowing languages”, you must also have a good mastery of your mother tongue (i.e., Chinese), you have to constantly update and never stop your training. In this profession you can never say you have known everything. There is always something more to learn.


7) The nature of translation profession means that  all must be done in compliance with the author, his style, his intentions. The Chinese translator is there, but the good of his work is not seen. So even if it’s really good, probably his painstaking work will not even get noticed.

Let’s face it, therefore, that being translator is a very difficult job, but then again, the work itself will be full of all the beautiful things that life has to offer: challenges, words, stories, creativity, knowledge, new worlds. So probably – no, definitely – it’s worth it!