Posted by: patenttranslator | April 21, 2012

Coping with Symptoms of Translator’s Dementia (TD)


In a recent post on this blog titled “Translator’s Dementia (TD) – What It is and How To Recognize the Signs”, I briefly described this dreadful neurodegenerative disorder, which is relatively common among freelance translators.

Because TD is incurable, translators who suffer from this disorder have to go on living and translating and act as if they were perfectly sane, because otherwise they could become even greater pariahs then they are already. However, some of the symptoms of TD can be alleviated and with good planning, even translators afflicted with the more progressive forms of TD should be able to function almost as normal people.

I will attempt to outline in this article certain strategies that can be utilized to cope with various symptoms of this contemporary disease.

1.         Coping with the E-Mail Checking Disorder

Because this obsession is about as easy to overcome as cocaine addiction, the key here is to make it as easy and painless as possible to perform this very frustrating and largely useless task, because translators will be checking their junk e-mails all the time anyway. While turning on a computer or a laptop is time consuming and labor intensive, checking your e-mail every two minutes or so on a tablet, preferably an expensive iPad, or an almost equally expensive iPod, or iPhone or a similar smart phone every two minutes or so is not that uncommon nowadays even among the general public. People who are not even translators do it in restaurants, while putting on makeup, while driving, or while talking to other people.

If you do it this way, nobody will even suspect that you are a translator.

If you are the stereotypical translator who is usually reluctant to leave the relative safety of “translator’s cave”, often a dusty attic, damp basement or a tiny room filled with useless old dictionaries and broken printers, you may consider leaving for example an iPad in the kitchen, a smart phone in the bedroom, and an iPod in the bathroom, etc.

In this manner, you can weave this particularly useless task seamlessly into your daily activities and eventually progress to multitasking, for example by being able to check your e-mail while talking on the phone, taking a bath, or brushing your teeth.

2.        Coping with the Compulsive-Obsessive Blogging Disorder

The solution here, although not a cure of course, because there is no cure for this type of aberrant behavior, may be again a little bit counterintuitive, but in fact quite logical and perfectly legal. Because blogging is generally frustrating mostly when nobody bothers to read our blog or respond to our comments, we can lessen the fear of pain inflicted by this disorder by creating several blogs about seemingly different subjects and under different names or pseudonyms.

Of course, translators will be writing mainly or basically only about the depraved practices in the translation industry, low rates, predatory agencies, and the general wickedness of the world at large because that is all they are thinking about 24/7. But a translator-blogger who creates different personas (sock puppets) for himself/herself on several blogs can explore these issues from different angles and thus has a much better chance to connect to other, equally frustrated and bitter translators on several continents, which is immensely gratifying.

If you have several blogs and leave comments on blogs of other translators under different names, the chances are that somebody will at some point “like you” on Facebook, or agree with you about something, which tends to alleviate the severity of the symptoms.

Another advantage of having several blogs and personas is that you can erase one or more of your sock puppets from existence when you finally get tired of a particular sock puppet, or when you say something so stupid on your blog that you don’t really want to continue writing it anymore, or even go on living in some cases.

It is better to terminate your blog and move it into the Recycle Bin than taking your own life.

3.         Coping with the Translator’s Agora Phobia Disorder

It is hard to lose the fear of others. Jean-Paul Sartre said it best: “L’enfer c’est les autres” (Hell is other people). The remedy for the profound anxiousness and maladroitness of translators, which is really just a fear of being criticized by other people who might call you a dumb nerd or worse, is really quite simple.

Get yourself a dog.

If already have dog, don’t leave your translator’s cave without it. When you take your dog with you everywhere you go, people will not be really looking much at you and criticizing what they see. Even when they talk to you they will be mostly looking at the dog and talking about the dog, especially if your dog is cute and intelligent and many dogs are. There have been cases of translators who have been suffering from a full-blown agora phobia disorder for years, even decades, and somehow found the courage to walk down the street again when accompanied by a canine friend who would never, ever criticize them.

True, you can’t take your canine protector with you everywhere. But still, people with well behaved dogs are increasingly gaining access to more and more public venues. You can for example tie your dog to a tree or a parking meter in front of a restaurant and order a beer while the dog is providing moral support and patiently waiting, even if you have not had the courage to order a beer in public for years, ever since you became a solitary translator.

4.         Coping with the I-Need-To-Lower-My-Rates Symptom

Instead of lowering your rate, offer a quick “off-the-cuff”, “pro bono” translation, but without guaranteeing accuracy. Most clients will accept your offer without a moment’s hesitation. Since they often ask for a discount for “just a rough translation” anyway, a free translation to them will be just the next logical step.

You can then run the complicated text in the foreign language through Google Translate or Microsoft Translator or something like that and send it to the client as is. Since they were warned that this would be just a quick and dirty translation, how can they complain? If they nevertheless do complain, ask them whether they want their money back.

5.         Overcoming the I-Need-To-Find-A-Safe-Job Syndrome

Oh, what the hell, do it! Go and find yourself a boring job, complete with a low salary, a long commute, a stupid boss, long overtime hours, backstabbing coworkers, the works.

If you really are freelance translator material, you will be fired for insubordination within a few weeks, which means that you will be back again to the safety of your musty translator’s cave, compulsively checking junk e-mails every two minutes and leaving angry and incoherent comments on various blogs in several languages under the pseudonyms of your various sock puppets in no time at all.

But no matter how severe the symptoms of your TD disease may appear to be at times, you will still be much better off than the employees who have to work for that moron who fired you.


  1. I just love your blog. It keeps me sane. Had a wonderful giggle this morning. Dementially yours …


  2. Thank you so much.

    I live for moments like this.


  3. […] Unfortunately, there is really no help for these poor people. There are drugs that one can take to control TD, but this only means that the disease is temporarily suppressed, and that it is only waiting to rear its ugly head again when the effects of the anti-TD medications have worn off. […]


  4. Once again, brilliant. Thanks for the chuckle.


  5. I am blushing.


  6. Hello, I just discovered your blog and had a good laugh. Great writing! Some years ago I worked in a translation company in a southern european country, where we have very low salaries, and my job was finding translators in lots of different language combinations, in several countries, so as you can imagine, a bit part of my job was trying to get translators to charge less or else I would be in trouble with my boss..there was a lot of negotiating, but mostly a lot of whining! I left after a year, I couldn’t stand it…


  7. A southern European country, hm. What country would that be?
    Would it be too dangerous to even specify the country?


  8. ah ah noo it’s not dangerous altough we do have the IMF watching . I was just trying to make my point that the rates here are really low and when I used to approach German or British translators, it was impossible to do business because of the cost of living . It’s Portugal :).


  9. Another great post man. I have been reading a few of your posts and they’re all very good. I work from home, and I recently got a dog (well, my girlfriend did and promptly decided to leave him with me the whole day), so as I’m writing this, he’s sitting next to me on the sofa and basically being my secretary. I was promised I would meet girls easily when I walk him but the only women I ever meet are 70+ ladies with their puppies. Still provides great company, though. Ah, and I make a point of having a coffee down in the cafe every day, after checking my emails. We’re freelancers so that we can be flexible with our time, not in order to stay in our “cave” all bloody day.


  10. It depends on where you walk the dog.

    You get generally best regults on or near the beach, which is why you can’t walk dogs on the beach here in the city of Virginia Beach.

    But I thought you had a girlfriend.


  11. […] DGT translation memories triple in size The importance of keeping up with your native language Coping with Symptoms of Translator’s Dementia (TD) Earth Day Legacy: 25 Words that Changed the World ‘Language: The Cultural Tool,’ by […]


  12. […] personas, aunque algunos de los síntomas pueden ser aliviados con las técnicas descritas en este post. También existen medicamentos que se pueden tomar para controlar la DT, pero esto sólo significa […]


  13. Dilbert, 12 January 2006. “They say he was a photographer. Never been cubicled.”


  14. “The new guy used to be a free-ranger. Let’s go watch him get broken.”

    The Dilbert site:


  15. […] Unfortunately, there is really no help for these poor people, although some of the symptoms can be a… There are also drugs that one can take to control TD, but this only means that the disease is temporarily suppressed, and that it is only waiting to rear its ugly head again when the effects of the anti-TD medications have worn off. […]


  16. […] DGT translation memories triple in size The importance of keeping up with your native language Coping with Symptoms of Translator’s Dementia (TD) Earth Day Legacy: 25 Words that Changed the World ‘Language: The Cultural Tool,’ by […]


  17. Starting my week after the Carnival long weekend and this was a very good, relaxed way to do it… thanks for the humor! However, shouldn’t it be, under 5., “you will be fired for _INsubordination_ within a few weeks” (i/o “subordination”)? Just sayin’….


  18. @Nelida




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