Posted by: patenttranslator | November 11, 2012

The Healing Power of Translating

Does translating have a therapeutic value?

I think so. It has been known for a long time that certain types of work have the power to heal wounded soul, or at least make people feel fulfilled and relaxed. Of course, it depends on what kind of work it is and under what conditions it is being done.

While the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“work will make your free”) over the entrance of concentration camps were just a sick joke, it is true that many people work even when they don’t have too, or even after they have retired.

Gardening is a good example of the therapeutic potential of work. My neighbor across the street told me that she spent hundreds of hours working for free on the landscaping of the school where her children are (hopefully) being educated.

After my father took early retirement (those were the days!), he spent the rest of his life restoring an old house that he bought in the country and working in the garden. His asthma all but disappeared. The kind of work that is right for you can sometime heal both the soul and the body.

When I am working on a relatively smooth translation, something that is well written and makes sense, without trying to beat a crazy deadline, I am probably experiencing a feeling similar to what my father was experiencing when he was working in his garden. I too am restoring something, as the meaning of the text that was encrypted in a foreign language will be found again by people who don’t know that language when my translation is finished.

When people are working in a garden, or building a boat or furniture from wood with their hands, some of the satisfaction that they feel comes from being able to see the result.

When I am translating a paper from a medical journal, all I see is a jumble of words suddenly appearing in front of me on the monitor. But I do know that I am creating something useful, in a way perhaps more useful and more permanent than a garden, or a chair, or a bookcase, because, to paraphrase the great Donald L. Philippi, I am carving a little bit of order out of the great chaos of our disorderly and unpredictable existence.

After all, it could be that what I just translated is the last missing piece of information that will make it possible to heal cancer. Or at least acne, also known as zits.

Translating can be a peaceful and therapeutic activity, sort of like gardening without the benefit of physical effort, which is a cardiovascular exercise suitable for any age. Or it can be a frantic, mad rush of human hamsters pushing a wheel which seems to be moving at an impressive speed up and down from the perspective of the busy hamsters. Only if you look at what these hamsters are doing from outside of the cage can you see that the wheel stays in one place and the hamsters have not really made any progress at all.

Working under the gun does not make you free.

But working at your own pace, when you are at peace with the world and the world is at peace with you because you are doing something useful and beautiful, may have the power to heal your soul and your body.

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Responses

  1. […] "Working under the gun does not make you free. But working at your own pace, when you are at peace with the world and the world is at peace with you because you are doing something useful and beautiful, may have the power to heal your soul and your body."  […]

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  2. […] Does translating have a therapeutic value? I think so. It has been known for a long time that certain types of work have the power to heal wounded soul, or at least make people feel fulfilled and r…  […]

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  3. […] Does translating have a therapeutic value? I think so. It has been known for a long time that certain types of work have the power to heal wounded soul, or at least make people feel fulfilled and r…  […]

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  4. This was a wonderful post and a great way to start the day. Thank you.

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  5. […] Does translating have a therapeutic value? I think so. It has been known for a long time that certain types of work have the power to heal wounded soul, or at least make people feel fulfilled and r…  […]

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  6. […] Does translating have a therapeutic value? I think so. It has been known for a long time that certain types of work have the power to heal wounded soul, or at least make people feel fulfilled and r…  […]

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  7. […] λεξικά εναντίον ηλεκτρονικών Book review: Found in Translation The Healing Power of Translating Neologisms in the 21st Century Common Idioms in Translation Understanding Post-Editing On […]

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  8. Beautiful. Thank you.

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  9. It’s many things, and I think ‘craft’ and ‘creative’ are two main aspects of the satisfaction one feels at getting it ‘just right’, especially when unraveling baroque, byzantine and bizarre convolutions into readable English that makes sense to the reader.

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