Posted by: patenttranslator | April 10, 2014

I Never Dream About My Work Except When I Am Daydreaming


I never dream about my work, which would be dreaming about working on my computer while translating a patent, probably because it is such a routine, mundane and boring task that there is no point in dreaming about it.

I don’t remember a single dream about translating anything during all those decades that I have been translating for a living. Although sometime I do wake up in the morning with a sudden realization that something that I wrote yesterday was a mistranslation, and sometime when I wake up like this, usually too early to be awake but too late to go back to sleep, I even know the right word that I should have used in yesterday’s job for a string of Japanese characters that did not seem to fit together very well.

Last night I was dreaming that I was riding in a car with Hillary Clinton. This is very strange because I never think about her while I am awake. We were going pretty fast towards downtown on a familiar street, it looked like Fulton Street in San Francisco because there was a big green park on the left side. For some reason, there were three of us sitting in what looked like the front seats of a sedan, including the driver, Hillary and me, which is impossible as sedans have only two seats in the front.

I was trying not to stare at her but I was stealing glances, of course, and I remember thinking to myself, man, she sure does not look her age. She looked forty something. She was on her cell phone, and I was eagerly listening, of course, to her part of the conversation. She was talking to her agent about a perfume called “Hillary” and she seemed unhappy about something, but in a guarded, noncommittal way …. and then I woke up and could not go back to sleep.

It probably means that she is running for president. Oh, well, who cares.

Sometime when business is slow I daydream that a major translation job will fall into my lap, a dozen Japanese patents that must be translated pronto, regardless of the rush surcharge. Unlike that ride in a car with Hillary Clinton, something like that does happen to me once in a while, and I am very happy when it does because my financial situation is then suddenly greatly improved within a few days or a couple of weeks.

It has not happened so far this year. I am getting a lot of small jobs, but the longest patent I translated so far this year was a chemical patent from French with barely 10 thousand words in it.

What I need is a long monster patent with numerous extremely clever and imaginative features which are repeated a number of times: first in the claims, then in the background of the invention, in the actual description of the invention, and in the effect of the invention. The longer and the more repetitive the patent, the easier it is to translate and to make money. The longest patent I translated so far had almost 63 thousand words because everything was repeated in every section about 63 times.

I hope to beat this record one of the these days as patent lawyers keep writing longer and longer patent applications in order to cover all bases, which is very good for us, patent translators.

They would not make them so long just because they are paid by the word like translators, would they?

Patents filed in the sixties and seventies were usually quite short, on average about two thousand words or less, which would be about three pages if it is a Japanese or German patent, depending on the format.

Then they got longer in the eighties and nineties, especially patents about chemistry and biochemistry, computers, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and software patents … well, just about in every field.

In the first decade of this century patent applications became still longer because in the introduction to the novel solution of the patent they usually list all previous attempts described in older patents to solve the tricky issue that the present patent application will solve flawlessly, while none of the older solution were any good, of course, as they were either impractical, or too expensive (unlike the ingenious solution provided in the present patent application).

But the problem with long patents is that if you need to translate a lot of them, it can get very expensive, especially if you need them in a hurry.

Which may be one reason why I have not seen monster patents on my desk for translation so far this year.

I gave several cost estimates for translating long patents so far this month, and although there has been no response so far, it is only a matter of time before a few long patents will require again my undivided attention.

In the meantime, I can daydream about a few long patents for translation, as well as about other things – but preferably not about riding in cars with politicians, which is something that I would do only when I am asleep, although I have no idea why.



  1. Hi there,

    I translate patents for a living too but not for as long as you have. Anyway I just wanted to say that when I have a lot of work with tight deadlines, I usually end up dreaming, not about the actual patent, but about translating in general, I can see myself typing on Word (don’t use CAT tools) and this annoying dream seems to go on for ages and I wake up feeling really tired! so much for a “sommeil réparateur” but this also happens to me when I have been driving for a few hours and then I will dream about travelling on this never-ending road/motorway whatever (no politicians in sight though).

    great blog by the way 🙂


    • “Anyway I just wanted to say that when I have a lot of work with tight deadlines, I usually end up dreaming, not about the actual patent, but about translating in general”

      It might be better for your nerves if you dream about riding in a car with Sarco or Hollande.


  2. Oh dreams are part of a translator’s life… Your post reminded me of some photos of young Hilary Clinton that were recently published. Did you see them? Maybe that could explain why you saw her in your dreams… 🙂 Anyway, I hope that your dream project will knock on your door soon!


    • “Your post reminded me of some photos of young Hilary Clinton that were recently published”

      Yes, that must be it, I did see them last Sunday in Washington Post.
      Can’t think of any other explanation.

      And thanks so much for your wish for me!


  3. In fact your comment made me realize that neither did I ever dream about translating in all the years that I did it – at least, not that I remembered on waking. But I certainly relate to waking up in the dead of night with the realization that I had mistranslated something, or still had a term to look up before delivering, etc. Ah! The good old days! Just kidding!


  4. “In fact your comment made me realize that neither did I ever dream about translating in all the years that I did it – at least, not that I remembered on waking.”

    You and me both.


  5. You are interested in Jung, no? Did you consider looking at “Hillary” as an anima image? It is interesting that all three of you are “in the front seat”, including the unknown third, which you could look at as a shadow image.

    It’s not unusual for me to dream about translation actually. Usually the dream anticipates something coming or once it prompted me to look at a short story I was translating in a deeper, different way.


    • @ Phyllis

      I do not see my dream about Hillary in Jungian terms. I don’t really give a lot of weight to his theories, with the exception of the theory of synchronicity.

      To identify something like that takes a real genius.


      • His dream interpretation theory is similar to the synchronicity theory though, in that where synchronicity identifies a connection of meaning/symbol between phenomena in the external world (not apparent to mechanical cause and effect view) dreams and daydreams can highlight the meaning connections in one’s internal world.


      • @Phylllis

        I will take another look at his interpretation of dreams.

        I forgot most of what I used to know about it.


  6. I had to laugh when I listened to “Paroles, paroles” while I was reading your post. I guess it is because of the age we are in that we happen to like the same songs and funs.

    Much fun reading your posts. I remember you wrote once that the video clips you choose has nothing to do with the contents you write. Well, are you sure?


  7. @ Wenjer

    Yes, Delon’s monologue is simply not credible, but I still like it. And I love it when Dalida says “Caramel, bonbon et chocolat”.

    Well, of course, the clips have something to do with my silly posts, either indirectly or directly.

    But every person clicking on them will create and see a different association than the one that I have created for myself.

    Every time when I hear Suzi Quatro in “Fumbling In”, I remember that I heard the song once in a supermarket in Sophia, Bulgaria. I was very thirsty and I bought a big, yellow bottle of Schweppes when this song came on through the speakers in the store.

    And she looks like a German girl I used to know when I was 20.

    Up until now, I was the only person who had this particular association with this particular song.


    • In that sense, everyone is unique. However, that Suzi Quatro song does remember me of a German girl I used to know when I was 26 and the songtext in German, someting like, “I like drinking coffee with you, so drop in, just drop in…” The Schweppes must be unique.


  8. Regarding that second song (Stumblin’ In), it reminded me of this German version I first heard many years ago from the German-learning audio periodical “Schau ins Land”:


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