On Stephen Fry’s wonderful QI, on the episode about “Inequality”, he recently mentioned that Louis Pasteur so hated the Germans after the Franco-Prussian war, that he would never allow his work to be translated to German. That then influenced the beer industry. See how translation crops up in the unlikeliest of places?
I’ve noticed that more and more often these days, publishers are contacting translators and asking us to find funding for books they want to publish but don’t want to pay for (or, to be fair, can’t pay for). Getting funding and applying for grants is not something we learn in university programs in translation and it’s not really something that many of us consider part of our jobs (see this article I wrote on getting grants awhile back). But it is something we have to learn more about; at the very least, we have to know how to advise publishers to go about finding and applying for the grants that governments and cultural institutions offer, even if we don’t do the actual applications ourselves. Sometimes we’re even asked to translate grant information (usually for free) and occasionally we’re begged to forgo part or even all of our fee so a book can get published.
Getting grants is not easy. It’s also quite a different skill from translating. Whose responsibility should it be? Personally, I’d like to be left to do what I’m good at (translating, editing, and writing), but I know that in this market, we have to be more willing to go into the business side of things and to help get the grants that will pay for our labor and get our work published. What do others think?
The Iowa Review wrote me quite awhile back to tell me about their new translation and literature forum. I only recently got around to looking at the site and I’m pleased to see such a high-profile literary magazine show translation some attention. You can check it out on the Iowa Review’s website.
The Linguee website might be of use to some of you, as it is an online bilingual dictionary for the language pairs English-German, English-French, English-Spanish, and English-Portuguese. It’s become quite popular and it might help those of you who work with those languages. Perhaps Linguee will expand beyond those tongues in the near future.
The Terminology Coordination Unit at the European Parliament contacted me (and lots of other language professionals, I’m assuming) to tell me about their work translating between 24 languages. thought it was quite interesting. They wrote, for example, “Our activities also include maintaining external contacts with university departments, entities dealing with terminology and language specialists, informing more than 800 translators at the Parliament on various terminology- and language-specific conferences, organising three seminars per year under the general title "Terminology in the Changing World of Translation" as well as giving presentations in Luxembourg and abroad for terminology professionals and students.”
They run a website with information about their work and it’s worth having a look. Remember, the EU needs translators, so if you aim to be a full-time professional translator, this might be a place where you could work.
The past few posts were about getting a PhD, and they were from a student’s perspective, but here’s a link from the other side, i.e. your supervisor’s perspective. It talks about how to handle your supervisor.
I haven’t been on the other side that long (I only got my PhD in 2009) and I haven’t supervised that many PhD students, but I’ve learned a lot in that time. One is that it is incredibly enjoyable to work with PhD students and to help them on their journey.
But perhaps more relevantly for you, I’ve seen how things can go pretty wrong. Here is some simple and perhaps obvious advice.
If your supervisor asks you to submit work by a certain date, do it. If you don’t do it and your supervisor follows up (which, incidentally, is an annoyance for both of you and a waste of your supervisor’s limited time), respond to the message. Your supervisor cares and wants to make sure everything is okay. Your supervisor has an obligation to you, but you also have an obligation to him/her. Follow through and follow up.
When you submit work, make sure it is clean and clear. No grammatical or orthographic mistakes. No half-sentences. No unfinished ideas. No outlines (unless you were asked to submit an outline). Do the work that was requested and make sure you edit it carefully before turning it in. Be professional about your PhD; it is, after all, your job at this stage in your life.
If you are asked to submit your work in a certain format (by email, for example, or in hard copy), do it. Different teachers have different preferences for how they read student work. I prefer emailed documents, so I can use Microsoft’s Track Changes feature and edit the work in a neat fashion. But others prefer hard copies. So listen to what your supervisor requests and follow the instructions.
If you have a meeting scheduled, prepare for it. This means having the work finished and submitted on time, as discussed above. This also means that you come armed with questions and/or discussion points. Your supervisor will generally direct the meeting, but you should have some comments as well. This is your chance to get advice, so take advantage of it. Also, this should be needless to say, but come to meetings on time. It’s so irritating and inconsiderate when students are late or don’t show up at all.
Also in meetings, make sure you take notes. You’re not going to remember everything that was said, so make the most of your opportunity and write down the ideas and critiques you get. I’ve been in supervisions where a student just says “Yeah, yeah, yeah” and doesn’t write anything down. It won’t surprise you that such students don’t generally make the changes that have been suggested in the meeting. This means that the supervisor then has to repeat all those comments another time, and what’s the point of that?
You don’t have to agree with or do everything your supervisor says, but you should at least listen to it with an open mind. It’s pretty rude for a student to make faces, sigh, or interrupt while the supervisor is talking, and yet I’ve seen this more times than I would have liked.
Don’t waste time in meetings talking about your personal life, unless this is directly relevant to your studies (if you’re going through a divorce or you’ve had a death in the family or another difficult situation, you may need a break from your studies or an extension to a deadline).
Do be polite at all times. This means thanking anyone who exerts time and effort on your behalf, not just your supervisors but admin staff, other teachers, interview subjects, and so on. It’s just good manners. And to be crass about it, you’ll probably want or need a reference from your supervisor later, so it doesn’t hurt to make a good impression.
Originally from Chicago, I lived in southern Sweden for nearly 5.5 years, and moved to southern Wales in September 2006. I completed a Ph.D. translation studies in June 2009 at Swansea University, with a dissertation on the translation of children's literature.
Now I live in Norwich, England, where I am a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and I also work as a translator, writer, and editor.
Contact me at bravenewwords (AT) gmail (DOT) com.