|Hoc erat in votis, modus agri, non ita magnus hortus ubi et tecto vicinus jugis aquae fons et paullum silvae super his foret. Auctius atque di melius fecere. Bene est. Nil amplius oro … Q. Horatius Flaccus (Horace), Satires, II.6||This is what I prayed for — a piece of land not very large, where there would be a garden, and near the house a spring of ever-flowing water, and also a bit of a wood. More and better than this have the gods done for me. I am content. Nothing more do I ask …|
This is what a Roman poet wrote in the time of Augustus, more than two thousand years ago. People have not really changed all that much since then.
The only thing that Horace forgot to ask for and that this patent translator would absolutely need to have would be a computer with Internet access and a very, very comfortable chair. The chair is in fact even more important than the high-speed Internet access. Sometime I have to work more than 10 hours a day when I am on a particularly brutal deadline. I have to make breaks, of course, get up and walk around the house, get another cup of coffee. Translation requires long periods of heightened concentration of the kind that cannot be forced when you are tired. I find that if I sit in a different chair and work on a different computer, I feel refreshed and ready for a few more minutes or hours of what looks like senseless pounding at the keyboard, which certainly could be one description of what translating would look like to an outsider.
I have two desktop computers in my main home office and I switch between them often because by doing so, I can sit in a different chair at a slightly different angle, and I also have a different view as each workstation is near a different window. I also have another desktop in what used to be my son’s room and what became my second office now that both of my sons finally managed to escape from the largely benevolent tyranny of their parents. And sometime, usually towards the evening, I switch to my laptop which I can use while actually lying on the sofa, or on the counter in our double vanity bathroom.The bathroom has the best light and the best view in the house thanks to a glass wall and a window overlooking a pond, a garden, and a forest, just like Horace wrote in the Satires.
But still more and better than this have the gods done for me. Unlike some other workers, translators can listen to music when they translate. Nobody minds when we do that, so why not? Music ruins my concentration usually only when it has a heavy beat to it, which is why I mostly listen to New Age or classical music, although sometime I switch to oldies from fifties through seventies.
Because I usually listen to Internet radio stations, I purchased for 20 dollars a USB Internet radio adaptor from Aluratek. I have my favorite stations saved on this adaptor and I can continue listening to the same music regardless of which computer I happen to be working on. Some days I listen to a French or Russian station to escape from the English language only ghetto of American music stations (radiodelamer.com, or relax FM from Russia), usually in late afternoon because it is night in France and Russia by then and they don’t talk much at night and mostly just play music. I recently discovered a great station in Bratislava, Slovakia, called for some strange reason “Mixing of Particulate Solids”, which plays really weird music all the time, without any interruptions with speech whatsoever. Most of the time this music is a perfect accompaniment for translating Japanese and German patents. But I keep discovering new stations with music that is perfect for pounding on the keyboard while translating, and discard old stations, sometime temporarily and sometime for good.
The one problem that translators have, of course, is that there are so many distractions on the Internet. You can read newspapers (although I usually just look for articles of my favorite columnists), or read and write blog posts and look for things that have nothing to do with your translation whenever something occurs to you as you translate.
But I have a solution for this problem too. Although translating may be the source of my income, the only source, in fact, there is no need to regard it as my main activity while thinking that listening to music or reading a book or something on the Internet are mere distractions. If I consider the various “distracting” activities that I engage in frequently during a typical day as important (or unimportant) as the work that I do, than I was not really wasting my time if I have just written a long blog about nothing, was I? And if I still somehow manage to translate a few thousand words while having spent half of my day or so reading, writing and listening to strange music, then I can still pay bills, which is kind of important too.