Profound Secret of Efficiency: Translate Fasterer

My apologies to my faithful reader out there for the lack of new material recently. You see, I am finally a bit busy! Not to say that before I wasn’t keeping busy. I have been reading  riveting ISO terminology standards and doing parallel readings of UN resolutions in English and French.

But now I am the good kind of busy. The kind that makes you feel like you are currently participating in the game, not simply preparing yourself for after halftime. The sort of busy that forces you to crack a smile after a long day because you know you’ll eventually get compensated for this work. I say eventually because sometimes your “invoice gets lost” or the “system farted and marked you down as paid”. I say compensated because spare change and Cheetos count, but it’s not really getting paid.

No. I insist that this is all fine and well. I will take that $0.73 straight to the bank. And I will use that voucher for a free appetizer with purchase of a main course from Applebee’s.

Mozzarella sticks.

Honestly, if I could tell my six-year-old self that one day he would be getting paid in fried cheese, he’d be stoked. I wonder if my student loan creditors like jalapeño poppers.

OK, I exaggerate. But I need to make sure you reached this far so you would feel bad about not finishing the article.

During this last week of frantic translating, working twice as fast as I usually do, I turned a corner in my thinking of how I should approach my work. My advertised output is the standard 2,000 words per day, last week I was outputting 3,500 to 4,000–without really breaking a sweat.

Full disclosure: I have done quite a bit of work for this client and I know the terminology and have already done 99% of the legwork in terms of researching and investigating. Also, they don’t pay me enough for me to pore over every segment. This, despite the lack of repetitions, has allowed me to run through the translation very quickly, coupled with the fact that I know and trust the editor. Me.

I don’t say this to toot my own horn; besides, my fingers are too greasy from the onion rings to toot it properly. I say this because in my translating really fast, I realized that I divorce myself even further from the words and simply type in English what the segment means. That is the essence of translation. To boot, going fast permits me to be more in line with the message of not only the segment, but the paragraph, and the subsection, and the section and the entire report. Increased continuity stemming from a clear vision of the big picture. It only took me two years before, two years during and two years after getting my Master’s in translation to figure this out.

In my down time after work, I began to ponder why this is working for me. Before stumbling upon the ‘why’, I figured out the ‘how’. Self-imposed time limits. How do I make myself work faster? I tell myself that I have less time to do my work or I give myself more work than I generally give myself time for. With this pressure of not falling behind, I have forced myself to make quicker decisions. In fact, I have removed the time I usually spend getting close to the words. I no longer have time to set up the microscope for each segment and I have to make do with a magnifying glass–a weak analogy but I am writing this blog post under a time constraint as well because I would be remiss not to experiment with this newfound method for increased efficiency.

With a constricted time element, I am forced to take a wider view of the what the Spanish says. The wider view creates a wider spectrum of possible equivalents in English. So now I am choosing from three or four adequate solutions whereas before I was searching for one where many times it simply was not there. I make my decision, type it out and move on, but I always have something to write. No longer am I tripping over myself as I fumble about trying to reconcile similar word counts, cognates, syntactical structure, key words.

I told this, quite proudly mind you, to Amaia over dinner. She looked at me as if I had just told her that the moon was not made out of BBQ spareribs. In her infinite tact, she described the exercises they had to do in interpreting classes, where they were charged with extracting the meaning as quickly as possible and then spit out the equivalent in the other language. For, in interpreting, especially the simultaneous breed, it’s not self-imposed time limits that constrain you. Rather it’s the nature of the beast, and you can tame it or you can not.

Happy for her that she had known what I had just found out for probably four years, I still chalked up this revelation as a win. What is slowing me down are my fat fingers on the keyboard. I plan on installing Dragon Speech recognition software and hopefully that will further increase my productivity. Until then, I will be tweaking my methods of speed against a rubric of quality versus speed since I still have to edit my own work this week. As editor, though, I am confident that the translator knows what he is doing.

“It’s a simple question, doctor. Would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?”

[images courtesy of and


  1. Mike

    “Would you eat yourself if you were a hot dog? I know I would. I’d use hot mustard and relish – mmmmm, I’d taste good.”

    • Thank you! I am glad somebody got it. And I would.

      • Mike

        Thanks for reminding me about Will Ferrell’s greatness. More importantly, I liked reading about how you found how you can ramp up output. Keep it a secret, and only use it when you have to!

        Also, Sonja smirked when I told her how Amaia reacted to your discovery.

  2. You’re right, I should treat this like a special weapon lest I bury myself in work ^_^

    Amaia’s face was something like this: (-_-)
    Sonja’s too? 🙂
    Here’s a cocktail, too: \%/

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